1994-10-18 00:00:00

Students at the biggest Catholic school in the northern Philippines have protested membership of the principal and some teachers in Brahma Kumaris, a Hinduism-based spiritual organization.

Wearing black arm bands, 200 high school students at St. Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City, walked out of classes Oct. 6 demanding that their principal and some teachers resign because they are Brahma Kumaris members.

The school chaplain and some teachers joined the students.

St. Louis University, run by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut Fathers), has more than 20,000 primary, secondary and tertiary students. Baguio City is 200 kilometers northwest of Manila.

The day after the student walkout, the school parent-teacher association called for an investigation into teachers´ membership in Brahma Kumaris.

These teachers, parents said, were "creating undue confusion and disturbance" among students and "division" on the campus.

"If they want to teach their beliefs, they should do it outside the campus and not inside the classrooms," the parents said.

Parents´ council president Edgardo Bilog said that as a Catholic school, SLU should not allow other religious groups to propagate their tenets on campus.

SLU president Scheut Father Jozef Vanden Daelen ordered university personnel Oct. 7 to "abstain from public display of non-Catholic symbols in the classrooms, offices and other places within the campus."

"Proselytizing and similar activities in favor of affiliations with unacceptable organizations that may tend to undermine our specific Catholic character are to be avoided," Father Daelen said.

SLU vice president Emitt Manantan, who has begun an investigation, said the principal and teachers cannot be suspended without valid grounds. SLU high school principal Lourdes Lucero went on leave Oct. 12, citing health reasons.

The Union of Faculty and Employees of SLU asked the administration for an official stand on the Brahma Kumaris.

"Continued silence in the face of the steady recruitment of members to this group greatly undermines the philosophy of education as enunciated by the university," the faculty union said.

The union also noted that SLU would have a double standard if it allowed the Brahma Kumaris, since it banned all fraternities from campus this year.

Brahma Kumaris spokesperson Rebecca Ortega said the group is not a religious sect teaching non-Christian values, but a non-governmental organization teaching meditation and positive thinking and that spirituality is beyond religion.

Its objectives, she said, are "harmony, peace, respect, brotherhood and love in the world." It has been accredited by the United Nations department of international economic and social affairs, she said.

According to Ortega, India-based Brahma Kumaris has 3,700 branches in 60 countries including the Philippines. It has 30 members in Baguio.


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