Anglicans Add Hindu Snowmen, Chinese Dragon to Christmas Displays

Some Anglican clergy have added a multicultural twist to Christmas decorations, adding Hindu snowmen, a Chinese dragon and a Jewish temple to the lawn where the traditional scene of a baby Jesus, angels, and the three wise men used to be displayed alone.

"We've done this as it creates a good opportunity for Christians to meet and hear about the stories of people of other faiths," said the Rev. Jane Hedges, a canon of Westminster Abbey, according to U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper.

"Christmas is an opportunity for everyone to stop and think and is a great opportunity of the different faiths to talk to one another," she said. "Wherever you're coming from there should be something to celebrate at Christmas."

The Abbey's canon pointed out that the story of Christ's birth is included in the Koran, and noted that the Hindu snowmen is meant to convey that Hindus have something to celebrate during Christmas too.

"Strictly speaking, the message of Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but it has a much broader message of peace and goodwill," said Hedges.

Westminster Abbey will showcase life-size snowmen with turbans and bindi dots on their foreheads that is meant to express that Christmas is not exclusively for Christians.

The Diocese of Liverpool, part of the Church of England, will stage a nativity that features a Chinese dragon and lantern procession.

But the additions to the Christmas landscape have drawn criticism from those who argue that the multicultural effort is undermining the Christian message.

An evangelical leader in England expressed his disapproval of the nativity scene spin.

"People want Christians to celebrate Christmas without compromise," said the Rev. Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, according to the Telegraph.

"It's only by doing this that people of other faiths respect what we stand for, not by attempting to introduce something that is sub-Christian."

Alison Ruoff, a senior member of the Church of England's ruling council, commented, "Why are they putting such a ridiculous spin on Christmas? It's a nonsense and makes me really quite cross."

"Christmas is a time for everyone, but the Church needs to be confident in its message," Ruoff added, "which is that Christ came to save people of all faiths and none."

The multicultural Christmas displays come as British society has become more secular as well as multi-religious, particularly with the population of Muslims growing rapidly.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England, expressed concern in May about the "considerable spiritual homelessness" in Britain, where people do not feel faith is an option.

Church attendance in England is expected to fall from 3 million to 700,000 in England, and 550,000 to 140,000 in Scotland by 2050, according to Christian Research.

Meanwhile, the study predicts that the number of practicing Muslims will outnumber worshipping Christians in Britain by 2035. By then there will be an estimated 1.96 million active Muslims in Britain, compared with 1.63 million church-going Christians, according to the think tank.

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