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Indian Church schools face fresh threat over Christian symbols

Church has complained to Assam state government, says unnecessarily dragged into false charges of religious conversion
A liturgy service in progress in Guwahati archdiocese.

A liturgy service in progress in Guwahati archdiocese. (Photo: archdioceseguwahati.org)

Published: March 07, 2024 12:10 PM GMT
Updated: March 07, 2024 12:14 PM GMT

The leader of a Hindu group in northeastern Assam state plans legal action against Church-run schools in the state after they ignored a deadline to remove Christian symbols from school premises.

Satya Ranjan Borah, who heads the Kutumba Surakshya Parishad (family safety council), told UCA News that his preparations are complete to file a case in the high court, the state's top court. 

"I have adequate documents to support my demand," he told UCA News on March 7.

Borah's council had set a 15-day deadline on Feb. 7 for all Christian schools to remove all Christian symbols such as crosses and statues from school premises and classrooms.

The Feb. 7 press meeting, addressed by 10 other right-wing outfits, also demanded priests and nuns to come to schools in civil dress rather than in their religious dress.

Borah publicly made these demands and warned of dire consequences in case of failure.

The government in the state is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I am not against Jesus Christ or Christianity. But my demand is to free missionary schools from religious symbols of all forms,” Borah told UCA News on March 7.

"We are against all forms of religious symbols in any school premises in the state," he added.

“A missionary school is to educate children in a secular environment and therefore, there is no scope for installing statues of a religion or adopting a dress code associated with a religion by its staff and students,” Borah said.

Borah had written a letter to Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati to keep missionary schools free of Christian symbols.

Reacting to the fresh threat, Archbishop Moolachira told UCA News that Borah "is free to file a petition in the court like any other citizen of India.”

"We too have given complaints to the government," the prelate said and dismissed the allegation that missionary schools were being used to promote Christianity.

Christian missionaries have been engaged in educational service for several decades in the remote areas of Assam, where poor tribal people live.

“Our education institutions serve the poor and the needy and thus the nation. But, unfortunately, such institutions are unnecessarily dragged into false charges such as religious conversion,” the prelate noted.

Borah on March 5 wrote a letter to the chief secretary, the top official in the state, demanding action against missionary schools.

The letter, also sent to the state’s chief minister and governor, a nominee of the federal government, wanted to prevent priests and nuns from wearing their religious dress in schools.

Christian leaders said Church-run institutions are facing threats from right-wing Hindu groups associated with the ruling BJP in the state.

Christians make up 3.74 percent of Assam’s 31 million people against the national average of 2.3 percent.

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