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Calm returns to Punjab; Indian bishops to protest textbook that blasphemed Jesus

Catholic World News - February 24, 2010

As calm returns to the northwestern Indian state of Punjab following the destruction of two Protestant churches, a spokesman for the nation’s bishops said that they will lodge a protest about the blasphemous textbook that was the occasion of interreligious violence.

The conflict began when nuns in the northeastern state of Meghalaya noticed a blasphemous image of Christ in a children’s textbook. The image portrays Christ holding a bottle of beer and a cigarette and called Christ an “idol.” After the nuns urged parents to write the state government in protest, the government pulled the book from circulation.

The subsequent public display of the image in Punjab led to peaceful Christian protests. After some young Christians tried to remove the poster from a Hindu market, violence broke out throughout the city of Jalandhar.

In addition to lodging a protest with the federal education minister, the bishops called for harmony.

“The bishops have condemned this blasphemous act and renew their appeal for peace in Punjab and across India,” said spokesman Father Babu Joseph. “Violence is followed by more violence and other Hindu extremist groups seek only a pretext to unleash vengeance on Christians. The bishops are now asking the government of Punjab to release the 25 Christians who were arrested following clashes (including some Catholics) over the publication of posters portraying the blasphemous image.”

“Making posters with the image and distributing them throughout the city was an operation conducted by Hindu fundamentalist groups to create tension,” he continued. “The state government has ensured that it will prosecute those responsible.”

81% of the nation’s 1.13 billion people are Hindu, 13% are Muslim, and 2% are Christian, including the 1.6% who are Catholic.

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