Jesus on SAARC banners, reports Sun Online

Banners and posters put up at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to promote the SAARC summit in Addu City feature the image of Jesus Christ, reports Sun Online.

The online paper reported that it received a number of calls complaining about the Christian imagery.

The visual art set to the theme of ‘Building Bridges’ was designed by local company Mooinc Pvt Ltd.

Mooinc Creative Director Ali Saeed said the designs were based on five themes approved by the cabinet to depict the culture and religion of the eight SAARC nations, where some 10 religions are practiced.

Under Religious Unity Regulations published by the government in September, it is illegal to propagate any other religion other than Islam, to carry or display in public books on religions other than Islam, and the translation into Dhivehi language such books and writings on other religions. Proselytising by foreigners remains punishable by deportation.

The regulations interpret the Religious Unity Act passed by parliament in 1994, which carries a 2-5 year prison sentence for its violation.

An Indian teacher working in Raa Atoll was arrested and deported in October for possession of Christian imagery and a Bible, after another teacher contacted police after finding hymn videos on the desktop of a school laptop.

Kokkattu claimed he had allegedly transferred the files from his personal flash drive by accident.

Kokkattu’s subsequent detention drew media attention in India, and the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) demanded the Indian government seek an apology from the Maldives for Kokkattu’s treatment.

“The lack of justice and the degree of religious intolerance in the Maldives is reflected by the actions of the Maldives government,” GCIC President Sajan K George told Asia News. “This is the worst form of religious persecution. The Indian government should demand an apology for the shabby treatment inflicted on one of its citizens.”

George called Kokkattu’s case evidence of the Maldives’ paradoxical nature. He said the Maldives “claims to be a major tourist destination, yet arrests innocent people,” George said. “This shows its intolerance and discrimination towards non-Muslims as well as its restrictions on freedom of conscience and religion.”