NBCC terms Assam CM’s statement ‘misdirected’ and ‘most insensitive’

Kohima, February 22 (MExN):  The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) today termed a recent statement by Assam Chief Minister, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, regarding an “important legislation” taken by the State Cabinet, as “misdirected” and one of the “most insensitive acts of religious bigotry.”

Conveying the February 10 approval of the “Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024,” Sarma reportedly stated that the bill is being piloted with the belief that the “religious status quo is very important for a proper balance.”

Expressing concern over the statement, NBCC General Secretary, Rev Dr Zelhou Keyho, in a press release asserted, “If maintaining the status quo is the order of the day, targeting a certain religious group is most unfortunate.”

It further noted that repeatedly, Christians in the country are accused of using their activities to induce unwilling converts into their fold. 

“It is unfortunate that such a statement is uttered by a respectable personality who is looked up to to pull the region together on all fronts,” it added.

According to the NBCC, the use of highly professional terminology without proper definition has caused suspicions in the minds of Christians in the region. 

To accuse Christians of their healing ministry as a means of converting the tribals is discriminatory in nature, it said. The Council further maintained that the healing ministry of the church from a professional standpoint has come a long way. 

“It has been the calling of Christians to provide care and compassion to every section of society,” it pointed out. This attestation can be seen in the Christian hospitals in the country and beyond, which provide affordable health care to every section of the population regardless of caste and religion, it added. 

In this connection, the NBCC argued that coming up with such legislation in any state is not “only discriminatory but also vindictive.” It further asserted that any discriminatory statement referring to any community of faith or ethnic group in the region cannot be considered “important.” 

“Any legislation must be logical and sensitive to the diverse socio-ethnic and religious-cultural spectrum of the region,” it added
It further alleged that there is an “uneasy feeling of superiority complex and tactics to suppress the minority religious group in the country” and Christians are beginning to feel “this wave in the region lately.”

The matter is made worse when educational institutions are targeted by those who think they have the backing of those in authority. This is unfortunate; the region must be grateful to the educational institutions run by the church, it added. 

“In many ways, we are what we are today because of these institutions... The contributions the church has made must be acknowledged rather than taken as a threat,” the NBCC maintained. 

“Educational institutions of any religion have their own distinctiveness, which must be respected. It must remain an open option for anyone and not be seen as a threat,” it added. 

The Council further noted that as the face of North East India, and smaller states in the region look up to Assam like its big brother.

“When insecurity is created in Assam, the negative reaction will be felt all over the region,” it added. 

It further highlighted the interconnectedness of the region and added: “We have existed not only as neighbours but also as friends, tending to each other’s needs.”

Accordingly, the NBCC held that Assam can lead the way in building confidence among the religious minority with respect and called for appreciating the diversity of religious practices that have existed for many centuries.

It must be noted here that the ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’ was introduced in the Assam State Assembly by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika on behalf of the home and political departments held by the chief minister on February 21.