ASIA/INDIA - In Gujarat, a book defines Jesus "devil": Christians ask for its withdrawal

Friday, 9 June 2017 religious minorities   religious freedom   freedom of conscience   education   school   social services  

Ahmedabad (Agenzia Fides) - A high school textbook in Hindi language, published by the "Gujarat State School Board for school books", being used in public schools in the state of West India, mentions and defines Jesus Christ as a "devil". As Fides learns, given the protests of Christians, the Education Minister of Gujarat said that "the mistake will soon be resolved".
In Chapter 16 of the book, titled "Bharatiya Sanskriti Mein Guru-Shishya Sambandh" ("The relationship between a guru and his disciples in Indian culture"), in the part that refers to Jesus Christ reads: "Issam sambandh mein haivan Isa ka ek kathan sadaa smaraniya Hain" ("In such context, one will always remember an incident of the demon Jesus").
Advocate Subramaniam Iyer, who noted the error, states that in that case, article 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code may be invoked, which refers to deliberate and malicious actions intended to outrage religious feelings of any social group. "It is simply unacceptable and should be removed immediately", he said. Iyer believes the mistake can create a gap between communities and cause problems of order and security.
Meanwhile, the president of the "Gujarat State School Board for School Books", Nitin Pethani, said it was a typographical mistake. "The word 'haiva', that is, the disciple of Jesus Christ – he explained - was printed as 'haivan', meaning 'devil', inadvertently".
After Iyer published a photo of the controversial chapter on social media on June 3, the problem created havoc among the Christian community, which asked for the immediate withdrawal of the textbook from schools.
Commenting on the mistake, Jesuit Fr. Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist, told Fides: "The fact that Jesus was denigrated in a school book tells a lot about those who have been accountable for shaping the mind, character, and future of Indian children". Father Prakash added that "many have no hesitation in denigrating or even eliminating minorities, dalit and tribals". Considering the error as "sign of fascist ideologies", Fr. Prakash asks for "the immediate withdrawal of the textbook, for the leaders to be persecuted and the government must apologize to the Christian community". It is not the first time, note observers, that mistakes of this kind have been reported in textbooks published in Gujarat. According to John Dayal, a Catholic journalist and human rights activist, "textbooks have always been dangerous as far as references to faith are concerned". (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/6/2017)