Christian schools in India given ultimatum to remove religious symbols

A religious cross is captured through some ornamental railings in the Fort Kochi area in the state of Kerala in South India.
A religious cross is captured through some ornamental railings in the Fort Kochi area in the state of Kerala in South India. | Getty Images

Christian institutions across the northeastern Indian state of Assam find themselves at the center of escalating religious tensions this week after a Hindu nationalist group issued a 15-day ultimatum demanding the removal of all Christian symbols and alleged missionary activities from school campuses.

The rigid directives were put forward by the Kutumba Surakshya Parishad (Family Safety Council), a Hindu outfit operating in Assam, sparking fears of potential consequences if demands are not met by the rapidly approaching deadline.

Specifically, the Hindu group called for the elimination of all icons, images and depictions of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary on school grounds, along with the removal of church structures located on premises.

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Adding to their directives, the outfit also insisted school staff including priests, nuns and brothers cease wearing religious attire like cassocks and habits that they accused of propagating Christianity.

“Christian Missionaries are converting schools and educational institutes into religious institutes. We will not allow it,” asserted Satya Ranjan Borah, president of the Hindu nationalist group, during a combative press conference in Guwahati last week.

In response, Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati strongly refuted the accusations as baseless but admitted that they were aware of the threat and will explore legal means to deal with them.

As tensions escalated, Christian leaders recommended that school staff wear secular Indian clothing and stated plans to appeal to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for assistance.

The harsh ultimatum issued to Christian schools spotlights growing strife between Hindu nationalist groups and religious minorities in the state.

While Christians account for 3.74% of Assam's population, higher than the national average, their presence has become a point of contention among Hindu activists pushing a narrative of cultural nationalism.

The Hindu outfit's demand to demolish church buildings located in remote tribal areas where Christian schools have educated poor populations for decades further illustrates the divide.

As the deadline nears, a sense of urgency grips the Christian community in Assam to protect their institutions from escalating vitriol. Their plea to authorities for intervention points to the fragile climate for religious minorities facing increased threats from Hindu nationalists.

With no response yet from the state government, apprehension is growing among Christians bracing for potential backlash once the ultimatum expires.

This article was originally published by Christian Today India. 

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