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‘Yobbo’ Jesus cartoons sparks riot: CEN 2.26.10 p 6. March 5, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Free Speech.

Cartoons portraying Jesus as a beer drinking cigarette smoking yobbo have sparked communal rioting in India, and have led to the burning of a Church of North India (CNI) church and Salvation Army meeting hall in the Punjab.

On Feb 20, Christians in the town of Batala took to the streets to protest the publication of a cartoon from a school textbook that portrayed Jesus raising a can of beer in one hand and holding a cigarette in the other.

“In most of the places the protest was peaceful,” the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported, but in Batala the “situation took a turn for the worst,” when Christian youths demanded Hindu merchants close up shop in solidarity with the protest.

“Resistance on the part of these shopkeepers led to clashes between the two communities. The violence gradually spread to the entire city when [Hindu extremists] came out on the roads with weapons and indulged in arson, looting and violence.”

Fighting broke out and ten people were injured and numerous shops and the two churches were burned, with the priests “brutally thrashed” and their houses ransacked, EFI reported.

The chief minister of the Punjab Parkash Singh Badal declared martial law in Batala and imposed a curfew, and promised to respond with an “iron fist” to anyone who “foments sectarian hatred,” the Indian press reported. The IANS news service reported that the deputy chief minister of the Punjab stated that the “culprits behind the blasphemous act of showing disrespect to the image of Lord Jesus have been arrested by the special team of Punjab police.”

The Punjabi riot followed protests by Christians in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, who protested the distribution of a handwriting book that published the yobbo Jesus cartoon, where it was used to illustrate the letter “I” for the word “Idol.”

The education minister of Meghalaya, India’s only majority-Christian state, Ampareen Lyngdoh said the government “strongly condemn[s] such a blasphemous act. Legal action has been initiated against the publisher.”

“We are deeply shocked and hurt at the objectionable portrayal of Jesus Christ in the school book. We condemn the total lack of respect for religions by the publisher,” the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Shillong Dominic Jala told AFP.

The Shillong Times said the Delhi-based publisher had apologised for “hurting people’s religious sentiments,” and had recalled the offending textbook.

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