Baptism is a religious ceremony for purifying and initiating people into Christianity. Once converted, the devotee receives a Baptism certificate as proof of being Christian.
However, now a CNN-IBN-Cobrapost special investigation exposes that corruption has crept into religious institutions and some unscrupulous members of the Church are making money by selling Baptism certificates.
So the question that was discussed on CNN-IBN’s show India 360 was - Are even the Priests taking to corruption?
On the panel of experts to discuss the issue were - Rev Walter David President, Baptist Union of North India, Sister Nirmalini Principal Carmel Convent School, Chanakyapuri (Delhi) and Aniruddha Bahal Editor-in-chief, Cobrapost.com.
Aniruddha Bahal was first asked what prompted him to do this investigation in Delhi? And whether there are reasons to believe that.
“We received prior information about the malpractice and so we decided to conduct this investigation to see the dimensions of this malpractise,” Bahal said.
However, he added that the information did suggest that it might be prevalent outside of Delhi as well. But economic constraints held the reporters from travelling outside of Delhi to get information.
But there are also reports that suggest that it could be systematic. So isn’t this a clear breach of faith?
“Yes. Firstly you are disrespecting your own community and secondly this whole thing of minority institutions are there to give a leg up to their own minority because they feel they aren’t getting more opportunities in fact in the mainstream and by doing this, you are taking the legs off from your own community,” Bahal said.
So does Rev Walter David think that one has really lost sight of the corruption that has crept in the system in the evangelical fervour?
“We have condemned this and suspended two people of the Baptists Union North India – Kripal Massey and Henrik James,’ he said.
This is just one case that has been exposed through the investigation. But there are reasons to believe that it could be more systemic than across churches in India, and not just in Delhi. Does that mean we losing sight of what happens in these churches?
“We condemn this action. It wasn’t expected and we have, for the first time, come to know about something like this. The guilty are going to be punished strongly. We have removed their names from the created listed of ministers,” Rev David added.
When asked if there was a way in which he could ensure that this does not happen in other churches, he said, “Other people will get to know and will learn a lesson.”
The procedure adopted by Christian minority schools for admissions is -
- A Bishop demarcates his area of authority into smaller units called parishes.
- The Christian minority schools give preference to Christian children within their respective parishes as per law.
- Normally, a child from a different parish is only considered for admission if he/she has a sibling in the school.
- A Baptism certificate is a must for admission in a Christian school.
- Apart from the Baptism certificate, during admission in a Christian minority school, some insist on a letter from the parish priest confirming that the child belongs to the respective parish.
But does Sister Nirmalini scrutinise the applications and Baptist certificates that come into school for admissions or they are just given a cursory look?
“We do follow and scrutinise them carefully. The Catholic Church of Delhi is clear and systematic about these things. Until and unless we have the Church Baptism certificate followed by letter from the Parish priest, we don’t entertain any requests. And if any of the application raises a doubt or a query, we can get back to the Parish priest,” Sister Nirmalini said.
When asked how different is a Baptism certificate procedure for the Protestant and Catholic Churches,” she said, “In some of the other faiths, Baptism is done at various levels. But in Catholic Church, it is a proper systematic record. I can assure you that there is no malpratice in the Catholic Church.”
But despite that, the fact remains that the churches were exposed are Catholic Churches as well. There is no caste hierarchy when it comes to the Churches that were being referred to.
There have always been allegations that there are cash incentives given by proselyters to convert.
But does it shock Sister Nirmalini that a person might want to convert to a religion just to fulfill a technical formality for admission into a convent school?
“It’s absolutely shocking. But this entire issue of nursery admissions has raised many questions. And somewhere this whole procedure is responsible for encouraging some kind of corruption somewhere. We are institution which has faith and we accept people in faith,” she said.
Asked if she had come across any case where the Christian antecedents of the person has been suspect, she said, “Not that I know of.”
There are certain legal procedures involved in conversions. What are they?
“You have to go to a first class magistrate where you give your statement on the stamp paper, there are some witness provisions are there as well. But there are procedures everywhere and one cannot take a stand that just because are there, things are safe,” Anirudh Bahal said.
So if I want to convert to Christianity, change my name to apply for a visa to travel to a particular European country or the United States, does that have any security ramifications or will that be stretching it too far?
“I can’t think of any right now. But there will always be a security ramification if you are assuming a different identity from what you are, you could change your name from what you are, then the motivation for that change of name becomes suspect,” said Anirudh Bahal wrapping the show.
CHRISTIANS IN INDIA
|There are 21 million Christians in India, and form the second largest religious minority in the country.|
|Catholics form the largest single Christian group in India. There are 16.5 million adherents to the faith and pproximately 4.5 million Protestants in the country.|
|Roman Catholics were under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.|
|The heaviest concentration of Christians is in the state of Kerala, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.|
|The 2001 census recorded over 24 million (2.4 crore) Indian Christians, comprising 2.3 per cent of the country's population.|
|There were nineteen archbishops, 103 bishops, and about 15,000 priests in India in 1995.|