Anti-Christian demonstrations and arrests have occurred in recent weeks. On 23 December about a thousand people from various Christian denominations took part in a large procession. Some five thousand people from all religions visited a nativity scene set up in front of the cathedral. Mgr Anthony Chirayath describes Christmas celebrations. “We are very happy because we were able to announce the birth of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Sagar (AsiaNews) – Christmas was “safe, with more festive celebrations than in previous years," Mgr Anthony Chirayath, bishop of Sagar(Madhya Pradesh), told AsiaNews.
His diocese is close to Satna, where, a few days before Christmas, police arrested 32 seminarians and two priests who had sung Christmas carols in a local village.
"In other parts of India, acts of hostility against Christians have occurred ahead of Christmas,” he said. For this reason, “we were afraid that it could happen to us too. Instead the celebrations were held with joy under the watchful eye of the policemen who gave us protection.”
Thus, “We are very happy because we were able to announce the birth of Jesus Christ with great enthusiasm. Non-Christians accepted us warmly."
“In Sagar we decided to show that we were not afraid,” the prelate said reacting to those who wanted silent ceremonies. “This is why all Christian denominations joined in an impressive procession, with floats, music and dancing."
The goal, he explained, was to reaffirm the presence of Christians in public, where "a few weeks ago Hindu radicals had demonstrated against us with lit torches, threatening to drive us out."
The procession took place on 23 December, Mgr Chirayath said. “About a thousand people from all Christian denominations joined in.”
“We marched through the city with several floats. There were living representations of the nativity scene, with boys and girls dressed like Nativity characters, with the Three Wise Men and the shepherds. People along the road looked at us curiously and applauded."
"Without fear we announced the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world and the Son of God. This year we did it more vigorously than in the past, in great style", he explained.
Before the event, the bishop had called on the state government to provide protection during the Christmas holidays, which was provided. Thus, he thanked the police who "protected all our initiatives and guaranteed the safety of the Christian community.”
“No parish in the diocese reported any incidents,” he added. “We usually go from house to house carrying the Baby Jesus and sing Christmas carols. This tradition is alive throughout northern India, where young people dress like Santa and hand out candy."
Good security preparation made it possible "to set up a large nativity scene in front of Sagar Cathedral. On 24 and 25 December, at least five thousand people, almost all non-Christians, visited the crib and entered church, well lighted for the occasion.”
"Many asked questions and our volunteers – priests, nuns and lay people – explained to them the meaning of the nativity scene, the tabernacle, the crucifix, and the place of worship in general."
"For us this gives us great satisfaction because it provided an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus."