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Indian state chocks Christmas events in schools

Students cannot be made to dress as Santa Claus or put up a Christmas tree, says govt circular in Madhya Pradesh state
Christian devotees take selfies with a man dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Day at a church in Amritsar, India, in 2020.

Christian devotees take selfies with a man dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Day at a church in Amritsar, India, in 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 22, 2023 11:24 AM GMT
Updated: January 02, 2024 05:20 AM GMT

Christians in a central Indian state are worried over a government order asking schools to seek parents’ nod before involving students in Christmas events.

The education officer of Shajapur district in Madhya Pradesh issued a circular directing all private schools to “seek prior permission of parents before involving students in Christmas-related events.”

“This is the first time that we are coming across such an order,” said Father Rocky Shah, public relations officer of Jhabua diocese in the state.

Most private schools in the state are run by Catholic and other Christian denominations and its leaders view the circular as a deliberate attempt to target and harass Christians and their institutions.

Shah told UCA News on Dec. 22, "We never got such an order during the celebrations of major Hindu festivals."

The Dec. 14 order makes it clear that “students cannot be allowed to dress up as Santa Claus or put up a Christmas tree” in their schools without written permission from parents.

The circular also asserted that in the event of any untoward incident, "unilateral action will be taken against the school authorities."

Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The pro-Hindu party won a fresh mandate at the recent assembly elections, the results of which were declared on Dec. 3.

“It is quite alarming to see such a government order,” Shah noted.

It threatened the “secular character of the country,” the priest added.

A government official, however, termed the circular as a “precautionary measure” that was aimed at "curbing unwanted incidents." 

Jerry Paul, national president of the Sarva Isai Mahasabha (All Christian Federation), an ecumenical body, told UCA News that the government should rein in trouble-makers rather than threaten the school management with "unilateral action."

“Students dressing up as Santa Claus or putting up Christmas trees are not religious actions, but they are a message of happiness and peace,” he said.

He also pointed out to the authorities that "the nativity of Jesus Christ is celebrated in churches and not in schools.”

He further asserted that in a democratic country, everyone has the right to spread the message of love and happiness.

Church leaders were apprehensive that the pro-Hindu party may come out with a similar circular in other districts of the state.

Christian schools, hostels and orphanages in Madhya Pradesh have witnessed several surprise raids from child rights protection bodies in the past few years.

The BJP government filed cases against Church officials, including a bishop, priests and nuns, under the draconian anti-conversion law.

Madhya Pradesh has recorded 35 incidents of persecution against Christians till November this year.

Christians make up a mere 0.29 percent of 72 million people in the Hindu majority state.

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1 Comments on this Story
CHHOTEBHAI
Santa Claus and trees have nothing to do with Christmas. This is a blessing in disguise
Asian Bishops
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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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