Monday, February 22, 2010

Churches in Punjab burnt over poster controversy

Email from Bishop Samantroy, CNI

Following the protests by Christians against display of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can in Shillong , the Epiphany Church in Batala,  has been attacked by some religious fundamentalists.

It was one of the most beautiful historic churches built in Mughal style in 1893. The lock was broken open and the church was vandalized. The altar, pulpit and beautifully carved wooden furniture are burned down.

This is the first incident of such kind in the region of Punjab. 

Christian leaders are meeting to discuss the matter and to plan actions to be taken.

Christians in the whole region are extremely hurt and agitated over this incident.

Kindly pray for the leaders that right decisions can be made and that peace and solidarity may be restored.

jesus with ciggaratte

Objectionable Jesus poster sparks violence, curfew

An indefinite curfew is imposed in the Punjab town of Batala on Saturday after tension prevailed following the publication of a poster depicting Jesus Christ in an objectionable manner. Clashes also broke out as some members of the Christian community forced shopkeepers to down shutters.

The curfew was imposed after members of the Christian community came to know about the poster, depicting Jesus Christ holding a beer can in one hand and what appeared to be either a cigarette or a chicken leg in the other.

They started gathering in the town and forced the shopkeepers to close their shops, leading to clashes. The police intervened when they tried to burn a few buildings.

Batala, 40 km from Amritsar, has a sizeable Christian population and several leading schools and other institutions have been run by the community for the past several decades.

The curfew will continue till further orders, officials said here.

Punjab police chief P.S. Gill said a case had been registered against the printer of the objectionable poster.

"The printing press in which the controversial poster was printed had been sealed and a case has been registered against the accused at the police station in Jalandhar's Division No. 4.

"Additional forces have been sent to sensitive areas to restore the confidence of the people," Gill said in Chandigarh, 250 km from here.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the state home minister, condemned the act and said no one would be allowed to disturb the peace of the state.

Pictures of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer can in the other in a book for primary classes triggered a row in Meghalaya Friday. The objectionable pictures were found in the cursive writing exercise books at a school in Shillong.

The Catholic Church in India has banned in all its member schools New Delhi-based Skyline Publications for printing the pictures in class 1 cursive writing books.

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Dealt with Iron Hand

Reacting to the acts of violence in Batala over the publication of a “sacrilegious” poster of Jesus Christ, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said the SAD-BJP government would not allow anyone in the state to disrespect any religion and take the law into their hands.

“Some forces are out to disturb communal harmony and peace in the state in a calculated manner. But the government is committed to maintaining peace at any cost,” said Badal, who was in the city for the foundation stone laying ceremony of Government College, Ghuddha. on Sunday. “Such forces will be dealt with an iron hand. The people of Punjab should also oppose such forces that emerge as a threat to peace in the state,” the CM added.

Badal said one person had been rounded up by the police in connection with the photo controversy and a probe is being conducted into whether the incident was a planned conspiracy. In his speech, Badal accused the Congress of engineering “such incidents which posed a threat to peace in the state”.

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