Hindu disagreement continues over Christmas stamp

Hindu disagreement continues over Christmas stamp

By staff writers
6 Nov 2005

Hindu disagreement continues over Christmas stamp

-06/11/05

Disagreement is continuing after the Royal Mail apologised to the UK-based Hindu Forum for a Christmas stamp depicting a man and woman with Hindu markings supposedly worshipping Jesus. But it says it is too late to withdraw the offending item.

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary for the umbrella network of British Hindus, declared that it was ìinsensitive to use it at a time when the issue of conversions in India has been a subject of heated debateî

Last week a Royal Mail spokesperson told the Geneva-based Ecumenical News International: ìThe painting dated between 1620 and 1630, on which it is based, is by a Hindu artist on the Madonna and Child theme.î

He continued: ìThis theme has been chosen this year for a set of stamps portraying how it is interpreted by different communities in the world and we thought it a particularly beautiful example. However the Royal Mail does apologise if any unintentional offence has been caused to the Hindu community.î

The stamp has already been issued to nearly 15,000 post offices across Britain. But Ratilal Chohan, general secretary of the Hindu Council of the North, says that it should still be withdrawn.

The design is by the Rev Irene Von Treskow, an Anglican priest and illustrator living in Berlin. It is based on a painting from India's Mughal empire which predated the arrival of Britain as an imperial power in the region.

Although complaints and calls for a boycott are continuing, not all are offended by the image, and some believe that a fuss is being made by what one Hindu told Ekklesia were ìself-appointed community leadersî, to boost their own standing.

He added: ìThere is no obvious inference that Jesus is being acknowledged in the same way as Christians do. Besides, my religion is supposed to be tolerant. And this was a Hindu artistís idea. There is so much trouble in the world ñ please letís just get on with being good neighbours and stop making an issue over nothing.î

Hindu believers recognise God in many forms. Some revere Jesus, and many recognise him as a manifestation of the divine, though not as the singular incarnation of God worshipped by Christians.

A year ago Hindu leaders in Britain began a campaign for the Royal Mail to issue special stamps for the Diwali festival of lights which took place last week.

Diwali is also marked by Sikhs and Jains, and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The post office has not responded yet.

The strongly nationalist BJP party in India regularly accuses the countryís established Christian churches and some missionary groups of forced conversions of Hindus, a claim which is denied.

But India has a strong tradition of religious tolerance and a secular form of government. Christianity claims a long Indian history dating back to St Thomas.

Disagreement is continuing after the Royal Mail apologised to the UK-based Hindu Forum for a Christmas stamp depicting a man and woman with Hindu markings supposedly worshipping Jesus. But it says it is too late to withdraw the offending item.

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary for the umbrella network of British Hindus, declared that it was 'insensitive to use it at a time when the issue of conversions in India has been a subject of heated debate'

Last week a Royal Mail spokesperson told the Geneva-based Ecumenical News International: 'The painting dated between 1620 and 1630, on which it is based, is by a Hindu artist on the Madonna and Child theme.'

He continued: 'This theme has been chosen this year for a set of stamps portraying how it is interpreted by different communities in the world and we thought it a particularly beautiful example. However the Royal Mail does apologise if any unintentional offence has been caused to the Hindu community.'

The stamp has already been issued to nearly 15,000 post offices across Britain. But Ratilal Chohan, general secretary of the Hindu Council of the North, says that it should still be withdrawn.

The design is by the Rev Irene Von Treskow, an Anglican priest and illustrator living in Berlin. It is based on a painting from India's Mughal empire which predated the arrival of Britain as an imperial power in the region.

Although complaints and calls for a boycott are continuing, not all are offended by the image, and some believe that a fuss is being made by what one Hindu told Ekklesia were 'self-appointed community leaders', to boost their own standing.

He added: 'There is no obvious inference that Jesus is being acknowledged in the same way as Christians do. Besides, my religion is supposed to be tolerant. And this was a Hindu artist's idea. There is so much trouble in the world - please let's just get on with being good neighbours and stop making an issue over nothing.'

Hindu believers recognise God in many forms. Some revere Jesus, and many recognise him as a manifestation of the divine, though not as the singular incarnation of God worshipped by Christians.

A year ago Hindu leaders in Britain began a campaign for the Royal Mail to issue special stamps for the Diwali festival of lights which took place last week.

Diwali is also marked by Sikhs and Jains, and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The post office has not responded yet.

The strongly nationalist BJP party in India regularly accuses the country's established Christian churches and some missionary groups of forced conversions of Hindus, a claim which is denied.

But India has a strong tradition of religious tolerance and a secular form of government. Christianity claims a long Indian history dating back to St Thomas.

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