Christians and Hindus can share a positive and hopeful attitude during and beyond the pandemic

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a message for Hindus on the occasion of Diwali. “Experiences of suffering and a sense of responsibility for one another have brought our communities together in solidarity and concern, in acts of kindness and compassion for the suffering and those in need.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a message today addressed to Hindus to mark the upcoming festival of Diwali.

Christian and Hindu religious traditions "teach us to remain in a positive and hopeful attitude amid adversity”, including the current pandemic. Indeed, this means that we can “strive in the midst of this global crisis to spread what Pope Francis delights in calling ‘the contagion of hope’ (Urbi et Orbi Message, 12 April 2020) through gestures of care, affection, kindness, gentleness and compassion which are more contagious than the coronavirus itself.”

Diwali, also known as Deepavali (row of oil lamps), is celebrated by all Hindus. Based on ancient mythology, the festival symbolically represents the victory of truth over falsehood, light over darkness, life over death, and good over evil.

The actual celebration lasts three days, and marks the beginning of a new year, family reconciliation, especially between brothers and sisters, and worship of God. This year it begins on 14 November.

To mark the event, the Pontifical Council issued a message, signed by its president, Card Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ and its secretary, Mgr Indunil Kodithuwakku Janakaratne Kankanamalage.

Titled Christians and Hindus: Rekindling Positivity and Hope during the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond, the statement begins with hope: “[M]ay this very meaningful feast dispel every cloud of fear, anxiety and worry, and fill your hearts and minds with the light of friendship, generosity and solidarity.”

The Pontifical Council notes that this is the 25th message to Hindus. Although “a small step in the direction of interreligious appreciation and cooperation, these Messages have, over the years, enhanced and promoted Hindu-Christian dialogue and harmony at various levels. We readily continue this noble tradition for the sake of forging, fostering and furthering mutual relationships between Hindus and Christians as a means of working together for our good and for the good of all humanity.

“This year, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wish to share with you some thoughts on the need to encourage a positive spirit and hope for the future, even in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles, socio-economic, political and spiritual challenges, and widespread anxiety, uncertainty and fear.

“Our efforts to do so are surely based upon our conviction that God, who created us and sustains us, will never abandon us. An encouragement to be optimistic may well sound unrealistic to those who have lost their loved ones or livelihoods or both. Even the boldest hope and positivity can dissipate in the tragic situations caused by the present pandemic and its grave effects on daily life, the economy, healthcare, education and religious practices. Yet it is precisely trust in God's providence that inspires us to remain optimistic and to work to rekindle hope in the midst of our societies.

“The pandemic has in fact brought a number of positive changes in our way of thinking and living, despite the unprecedented suffering it has caused worldwide and the lockdowns that have disrupted our normal life. Experiences of suffering and a sense of responsibility for one another have brought our communities together in solidarity and concern, in acts of kindness and compassion for the suffering and those in need.

“Such signs of solidarity have led us to appreciate more deeply the importance of coexistence, the fact that we belong to one another and that we need one another for the well-being of all and that of our common home. As Pope Francis has rightly noted, "solidarity today is the road to take towards a post­ pandemic world, towards the healing of our interpersonal and social ills", and "a way of coming out of the crisis better" (General Audience, 2 September 2020).”

“Based on those religious traditions and teachings, our shared values and our commitment to the betterment of humanity, may we, as Christians and Hindus, join all people of good will in working to build a culture of positivity and hope in the heart of our societies, not only in these difficult days but also in the future that lies before us.”