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Friday, June 9, 2023

Assam: Christian Missionaries appropriating Bihu dance music to convert members of backward communities

While we often highlight the increasing threats of Islamists on Assam, the equally nefarious expansion of missionary activities in the state has not been discussed much. These Christian Missionaries have been active in Assam for the past several years. They primarily target the economically backward people from the Nepalese and Adivasi/Banvasi community who work in the tea gardens of Assam. Now a section of these Christian evangelists has been accused of offending the local cultural ethos of Assam by appropriating Bihu. 

Performed usually by young men and women, the Bihu dance is an indigenous folk dance of Assam. The Bihu festivals have great significance in the Assamese culture. And the evangelists are accused of contorting this dance and music form of immense cultural connotation to promote Christianity in Assam. It is also alleged that the Christians have distorted several Bihu songs and music and are promoting the name of Jesus through them. Reportedly, they are also organizing Bihu festivals. During the performances, they play songs with Jesus’s name inserted in them – which is opposed to the Bihu culture. 

Such instances have also been reported from the Udalguri district lately. The Bihu festival organized by the Nepali Baptist Christian Association in Udalguri has come under the radar. The concern expressed by locals is that though the Christian Association uses traditional Assamese musical instruments and plays cultural music, the language and lyrics have been changed to praise and promote Jesus.

Several videos showing young women performing the Bihu while promoting Christianity, spreading the gospel, and glorifying Jesus have also surfaced on various social media platforms. YouTube is also flushed with professionally made Bihu videos propagating Christianity and singing laurels of “Prabhu”Jesus Christ.

It is established that the missionaries have found fertile grounds in Assam and they are exploiting the innocence and financial challenges of backward communities. 

As per a report by Hindu Voice, evangelists of the Sonapur Christian Missionary are conducting large-scale conversions of members of the Vanvasi (Adivasi) community by luring them with money. If any individual refuses to take money for religious conversion, the missionaries try to sway them by promising free education for their children.

The villages within the Sonapur area have seen an increase in the number of churches in the past 30 years. Unfortunately, there were not many reports on the expansion of Christianity in this region and the ways adopted by the evangelists to convert people. Recently several Hindu associations have expressed their objections to this practice and have voiced their anger and displeasure against them. However, converting under-privileged communities to Christianity is still being carried out in full swing. 

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