Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A pilgrimage for peace begins tomorrow in Varanasi. Swami Sachidananda Bharathi, from the Tyagarchana Shanti Mission, will lead the Tyagarchana Shanti Yatra to promote interfaith cooperation and harmony in Uttar Pradesh.
Members of the Dharma Bharathi Navsrishti International and the Prerana Kala Manch, the theatre company of the Christian Vishwa Jyoti Communications Cultural Centre will accompany him.
The first stage of the pilgrimage begins tomorrow, India’s 68th Independence Day, with four hours of fasting and prayer (Tyagarchana Maha Yagya). Participants plan to walk for 100 days, visiting 125 cities in the Indian state.
Uttar Pradesh, India's largest and most populous state, was chosen as the sole location for the pilgrimage because it had the highest number of religiously motivated violent incidents) in 2013, more than 250 incidents mostly between Hindus and Muslims.
State elections are scheduled next year, and many fear that politicians will use religion as a wedge to polarise the electorate.
“We need to prepare the common folk on the need of maintaining peace and harmony in every crisis situation,” said Father Anand, the event’s coordinator, in the official press release.
In order to encourage unity in diversity and celebrate India’s composite culture, rallies, seminars, cultural activities and prayer vigils will be held during the pilgrimage.
The clergyman stressed that “these events will be held in schools, educational facilities and in open spaces in villages and cities" to underscore the message of peace, harmony, love, forgiveness and friendship.