From the Vatican to madrassas, the actions of religious authority figures must be scrutinized
The Christian faith could have done without it; the Vatican more so. In a world where the numbers of non-believers in any faith is on the rise, recent revelations of child abuse by Catholic priests in France have torpedoed efforts and hope that faith in faith can be restored.
Following on from the de-robing of a priest in Australia for such misdemeanours, no less a person than the pope had announced reform in the previously well-documented appointments. Some 3,200 out of 116,000 priests in France stand accused of child abuse of 250,000 children between ranging back to 1950. The victims are beginning to speak out, tearing into the fabric of one of France’s dearly held beliefs in the Catholic faith. Nothing is new about the phenomena across all religions, and Bangladesh is no exception. The difference is that in this majority Muslim country, Islamic preachers and teachers are in increasing numbers being apprehended by the law. There’s no certainty that such isn’t happening in the minority faiths.
Priests and Buddhist monks have the microscope on them because of the oath of celibacy they take. Christian nuns and priests are to go through certain rituals, habits, and even food choices to smother their earthly and human desires. Once in a while, the veils drop and reality emerges leaving the general public shocked, though it shouldn’t.
The Vatican, as much as the central seats of other religions, has failed the public by not changing the centuries-old rules that applied to ensure celibate lives. Just as many depart from the confines of the robe and aren’t reported on, the changes, if any, to behaviours, aren’t made public. Likewise, it is preposterous that no organization -- not even the Islamic Foundation or the madrassa leadership -- have come clear on what it is they plan to do to prevent such abuses, not just with boys, but girls as well.
The matter of the latter is of particular concern, given the dangers of being impregnated. What it does to the psychology of impressionable minds can never be fully gauged. The damage is irreparable. The church, masjid, mandir, and monastery all support legal conjugal lives by followers. That their leaders must be above reproach and live the values they preach follows naturally. That’s the basis of all faith. Corruption and lust in the faiths have gone to levels where the majority that turn away can’t be blamed.
The atheists have the freedom to ignore teachings of the faith based on the logic with which they approach scripture and its lessons. It’s the believers that are worst affected. The sight of the non-violence preaching of Buddhist monks actively participating in persecution of Rohingya didn’t make for a pretty sight. Their highest seat did nothing to disavow or condemn. They just looked the other way.
Faith is a very personal matter no matter what some may say. It is individual choice at its purest form. Where the non-believers get it horribly wrong is attacking different faiths for what they stand for. Misinterpretation or not living by the canons is again, the individual’s shortcoming, not that of the faith itself. The religious leaders have failed by not explaining or interpreting faith in a present day context, including with the support of scientific evidence. The past is exposing too many skeletons for comfort. The uncovering of graves in Canada of indigenous children sent to institutions and never heard of again has left deep scars among the indigenous population and the forward-looking as well.
Church premises in Europe are increasingly being given up to commercial considerations simply because the lack of frequenters was resulting in an inability to maintain the premises. One of the less palatable sights was bars being set up where the magnificent organs were. Our government is pressing ahead with streamlining religious institutions’ curriculum so that children have access to areas of study that prepare them for the realities of life. It’s quite a battle, given that wealthy nations, ostensibly following the Islamic faith, too have been caught out for regresses. Nor have they re-aligned teaching in similar institutions to reflect rounded students. With sex education still not accepted or incorporated in the school syllabus, it is incomprehensible that this could be introduced in Islamic education. For followers of other faiths, there are institutions that continue a more radicalized form of education.
How this shapes young minds hasn’t been researched. Tucked away in remote areas, sometimes more publicly, they too are turning out youngsters that may well have had the wrong inculcation of traditionally known values.
The Catholic faith must now take the call of revamping their appointment procedures and diligence. Islam as the fastest growing religion cannot but change and follow set down guidelines for teacher appointments and contextualizing teaching itself.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.