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    » 02/22/2010, 00.00

    INDIA

    Punjab: clashes between Christians and Hindu extremists, Protestant church burned

    Nirmala Carvalho

    Violence sparked by an image of Jesus drinking beer and smoking. The faithful protest, demanding the closure of shops and businesses. Hindu fundamentalist groups wage urban warfare. Bishop of Jalandhar condemns the "provocative actions", but calls on the faithful to peace and forgiveness.

    Jalandhar (AsiaNews) - Authorities in Batala, a town of Punjab, have partially removed curfew after clashes broke out last February 20 between Hindu extremists and the Christian minority. To violence was sparked by the publication of a cartoon with a picture of Jesus raising a beer in one hand and holding a cigarette in the other. The chief minister of Punjab condemns the blasphemous image and promises an iron fist against anyone who "foments sectarian hatred." Bishop Anil Couto, Bishop of Jalandhar, invites the faithful "to peace and brotherhood."  

    The cartoon, published by a publisher in Delhi, has sparked protests from the Christian community of Batala, a town in the district of Gurdaspur in Punjab. On 20 February the city streets were the scene of violent clashes between Hindus and Christians, who wanted the closure of shops and businesses. Activists of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena - Hindu extremist groups - waged a guerrilla war on the Christians, injuring to 10 people, damaging several shops and the burning of the Salvation Army Mukhi Fauj church, the city's oldest and best known.    

    To stem the violence, local authorities have imposed a curfew, which has been partly removed today. A police official says that they want to give people the possibility to "to leave their homes for shopping or other necessities." He also adds that "the level of alert" remains high to prevent new clashes.  

    Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab, has condemned the offensive image and points the finger at "those who do not appreciate peace” and foment sectarian hatred. He adds that the police have recieved well-defined guidelines to "punish those guilty of sacrilege."

    Mgr. Anil Couto, Bishop of Jalandhar, appeals for calm and brotherhood. The prelate calls the faithful to practice the teachings of the Gospel, promoting peace and forgiveness, but at the same time points out that too often "provocative actions or images" wound the soul and the religious feelings of Christians. He invites the faithful to "be proud" of their religion, while not forgetting the message "of peace and love brought by Jesus Christ."    

    Even some Hindu organizations have condemned the insulting image that portrays Jesus as he drinks and smokes. They call for the arrest of those who would hurt the sentiments of Christian community.  

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    See also

    07/06/2011 INDIA
    Karnataka: police arrest Pentecostal pastor on false charges
    The incident happened in Bangalore on June 5. Hindu radicals campaign against the law intended by the government to curb sectarian violence. The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians: "We are treated like second class citizens."

    27/08/2010 INDONESIA
    Jakarta, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims demand tolerance from extremists
    The meeting organized by activists for inter-religious dialogue. Moderate Muslims against Islamic radicals. It 's easier to get permits to build beauty centres than build a church.

    30/11/2004 INDIA
    Dialogue and prayers against violence, says Orissa Archbishop


    10/03/2011 EGYPT
    Cairo, Al-Azhar condemns violence against Christians
    The death toll rises to 13 from clashes between Copts and Muslims in recent days in Cairo, after the burning of a church. The violence has mainly involved the landfill district of Mansheya.

    26/10/2009 INDIA - PAKISTAN
    The courage of the Church of Pakistan, against the "Islamization" of society
    Vatican figures speaks to AsiaNews about their impressions from a recent trip to Pakistan. Christians are persecuted; the blasphemy law is used to target the faithful and their businesses. But signals of hope are also emerging: the Church is "young, vibrant and courageous."



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