Assam Christian Community Opposes Proposed Bill Targeting “Magical Healing

The Christian community in Assam has expressed concerns over the introduction of the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024, which aims to criminalize acts of “magical healing” that allegedly exploit people. The bill, tabled by the Himanta Biswa Sharma government in the state assembly, has sparked unease among Christians who view it as an infringement on their religious practices and constitutional rights.

Archbishop John Moolachira, President of the Assam Christian Forum, criticized the terminology used in the bill, stating that there is no concept of “magical healing” in Christianity. He emphasized that healing prayers are a common practice in Christianity, conducted through prayer and faith, and not through what the government perceives as “magic.” The Archbishop questioned the need for such legislation and expressed disapproval of the government’s motives.

The bill, introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika on behalf of Chief Minister Sarma, alleges that “magical healing practices” are being used for religious conversions among tribal communities in Assam. However, the Assam Christian Forum refutes these claims, citing Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to practice religion freely. They argue that the proposed bill undermines this constitutional protection and unfairly targets the Christian community.

Allen Brooks, spokesperson for the Assam Christian Forum, highlighted the discriminatory nature of the bill and indicated that legal action may be pursued to challenge its validity. He emphasized that accusations against Christians regarding conversion activities are unfounded and unjust, as seeking divine intervention for healing is a fundamental aspect of religious belief.

The proposed legislation includes provisions to ban misleading advertisements and false claims related to “magical healing,” with penalties including imprisonment and fines. However, critics argue that such measures are excessive and could be misused to target religious minorities.

The concerns raised by the Christian community come in the wake of threats issued by fringe Hindu groups against Christian institutions and symbols in Assam. The Kutumba Surakshya Parishad, for instance, demanded the removal of Christian symbols from schools and urged priests and nuns to abandon their religious attire. These actions have further heightened tensions and underscored the need for the government to address religious intolerance and ensure the protection of minority rights.

In response to these developments, Archbishop Moolachira reiterated the importance of religious symbols in Christian schools, emphasizing their role as symbols of identity rather than objects of worship. He condemned the actions of fringe elements and called for greater efforts to promote tolerance and respect for religious diversity in Assam.

As debates over the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill continue, it remains to be seen how the government will address the concerns raised by the Christian community and uphold constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality for all citizens.

Credit- FB- Himanta Biswasharma


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