Vatican City (AsiaNews) The solidarity that Christians and Hindus have shown and experienced at the time of the tsunami tragedy is proof that at "a time when aggressive secularism would seem to be on the increase and respect for basic human values often appears to be on the decline, such cooperation among people of different religions can bring about a new respect for religion in today's world."
Such is the central point the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue stressed in its message to Hindus on the occasion of this year's Diwali festival, also known as Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. Rooted in ancient mythology, Diwali is a time to celebrate the victory of truth over falsehood, light over darkness, life over death, good over evil.
Festivities normally last three days and mark the beginning of the New Year. They are also a time when family find reconciliation, especially between siblings; a time for the adoration of God.
Here is the Pontifical Council's message titled Christians and Hindus in solidarity, signed by its chairman, Mgr Michael L. Fitzgerald:
"Dear Hindu Friends,
1. As you celebrate Diwali again this year, I wish every one of you much joy and happiness. May this holiday season bring you refreshment in mind and body and renew you in spirit to continue meeting the difficulties of daily life with courage and hope.
2. It is only natural for us to hope that the joyful character of our religious celebrations may extend to every moment of our existence. Yet we know that, unfortunately, life is not like this. We experience it as a mixture of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, wellbeing and sickness, comfort and grief. Religious feasts, recalling to us the spiritual dimension of life and the search for true meaning, provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the significance of tragic events in our own lives or in those of people around us. This reflection is inspired by the occurrence of the "tsunami", the "killing waves" caused by the earthquake in the Indian Ocean at the end of last year. The forces of nature wreaked great havoc, many lives were lost, countless homes were destroyed, sources of livelihood ruined and families, including many children, were left destitute.
3. Like myself, many of you who are receiving this message may not have been personally affected by the "tsunami". We have learnt about the suffering of the victims at second hand. We have nevertheless wanted to express our sympathy and show our solidarity. And we have been able to do this together. Through the bonds of friendship forged by dialogue over the years, we Christians have come to discover that you, as Hindus, are greatly concerned about those who are suffering. For your part, you may have come to realise that the Christian faith teaches that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and is thus deserving of attention and concern. In this context I should like to quote from Nostra Aetate, the declaration of the Second Vatican Council on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. This document, whose fortieth anniversary we are celebrating this year, states: "We cannot in truthfulness call upon God who is the Father of all if we refuse to act in a brotherly way toward certain men, created though they may be to God's image. A man's relationship with God the Father and his relationship with his brother men are so linked together that Scripture says: 'He who does not love does not know God' (1 John 4:8)" (NA 5).
4. In places affected by the 'tsunami', solidarity across religious boundaries has helped to bring hope to many of the victims. Teams of relief workers belonging to different religious traditions have been tireless in working to alleviate immediate suffering and to initiate reconstruction. At a time when aggressive secularism would seem to be on the increase and respect for basic human values often appears to be on the decline, such cooperation among people of different religions can bring about a new respect for religion in today's world.
5. Dear Hindu friends, let us continue to collaborate in finding solutions to the problems we face, whether they be small or great, whether local or international. Diwali celebrates light, goodness, reconciliation, peace, harmony and happiness. I wish you all a very happy feast."
Michael L. Fitzgerald