An illustration of Jesus holding a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other has sparked outrage among India’s Christian community.
What’s worse is that the image was published in a textbook for primary school children. The beer-drinking Jesus illustration was found under the letter “I,” for idol, in a textbook teaching children how to write cursive.
“Jesus Christ, who we, along with other Christians across the world, consider as the Son of God, was demeaned,” expressed the Indian Catholic Youth Movement of the Shillong Archdiocese in a statement. “The publication of the despicable picture has deeply hurt our religious sentiments, and its publisher has manifestly breached the provisions of the Constitution of India.”
Shillong is the capital of India’s northeastern Meghalaya state, where the image was first discovered this week in textbooks. More than 70 percent of the population in Meghalaya is Christian.
Since the discovery of the image, all the copies of the book containing it have been removed from schools and bookshops in Meghalaya, according to Ampareen Lyngdoh, the education minister of the state, .
“I am appalled and condemn the violent pictorial presentation of Christ,” Lyngdoh told The Associated Press on Saturday. “The children for whom the textbook was meant look up to Christ with reverence, and they are shocked beyond words.”
Meghalaya government officials say they plan to take legal action against the Delhi-based publisher, Skyline Publications, although they did not provide details. And the National Council of Churches in India has demanded the Meghalaya government establish a mechanism to examine all school books before they are distributed.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has instructed Christian schools across India to remove all textbooks by the publisher.
Following the outrage, Skyline Publications has issued an apology for hurting the religious sentiments of the people of Meghalaya state. It also said all the copies of the book are being withdrawn from the market.