ASIA/INDIA - Threats of Hindu extremists to Christian schools in view of Christmas

Tuesday, 19 December 2017 school   religious freedom   education   christmas   religious minorities   human rights   local churches   hinduism   dialogue   freedom of conscience  


Agra (Agenzia Fides) - It is unacceptable that national Hindu right-wing groups keep on threatening Christians ahead of Christmas, say Church leaders in India. Days ago the "Hindu Jagran Manch" extremist group warned the Christian schools of the state of Uttar Pradesh not to celebrate Christmas, calling it an "act of proselytism". "It is abominable that the hard-line Hindu outfit groups continue to issue repeated dictate, intimidations and threats to Christians and attacking them in different parts of India", says Carmelite Father Johnson Digal, a teacher in a Catholic school in Uttar Pradesh state to Agenzia Fides. "Most of all the students are Hindus and Muslims here, but they are cooperative with us so far. Last year one Pastor was forced to tonsure his head and was paraded on a public road, thinking he was converting people without any solid evidence", he says.
Christian schools in Uttar Pradesh - India's most densely populated state, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) - have been issued a warning by several Hindu nationalist organizations affiliated to the "Hindu Yuva Vahini", led by the leader Yogi Adityanath (today Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh): these suspect that Christmas celebrations in schools, attended by many Hindu students, can encourage conversions.
The threat comes just days after Bajrang Dal activists accused a group of Christians, who were singing carols, a centuries-old tradition in India, of "proselytizing", and burned their cars in front of a police station in Satna district, in Madhya Pradesh.
Such episodes on Church leaders is not a new phenomena but the fact is the attackers enjoy patronage from different quarters, in a country of great democratic tradition like India, which guarantees religious freedom to its citizens. The Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organization created in 2002 by Adityanath, had lodged a complaint against the Pastor of a Protestant church earlier this year, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity. The Pastor was only guiding a Christian liturgy. Back in 2014, Adityanath had warned Christians not to celebrate Christmas outside Churches. "False propaganda of religious conversions, intimidating minority institutions in the name of religion under the patronage of ruling parties has become a great threat to the very constitutional right of citizens in India. Slowly but steadily India is moving towards pseudo-theocracy. It is a time that all the Indians woke up to realize this and defend India against these fascist forces", comments to Fides Jesuit Fr. Savarimuthu M, a teacher at Xavier Institute for Tribal Education in Jharkhand state. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 19/12/2017)


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