09/20/2010, 00.00
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“We pray for peace in Ayodhya,” Card Gracias says, against possible Hindu-Muslims tensions

by Nirmala Carvalho
On 24 September, an Indian court will rule on the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in Uttar Pradesh and the Hindu-Muslim clashes that followed. The president of the Bishops’ Conference urges the faithful to act as bridge builders for dialogue and tolerance.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The verdict on the Ayodhya mosque “should be fair, and accepted by all parties, and lead to interfaith harmony. India has a pluralist tradition of peace and this must be defended at all costs,” Card Oswald Gracias told AsiaNews. The prelate, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, urges all the Churches in the country to pray ahead of the ruling.

The court in charge of the case will have to rule on the destruction of the Babri Masjid (Mosque) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which occurred 1992. On 6 December of that year, 150,000 people, egged on by the Sangh Parivar, a Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation, stormed and demolished the mosque. Clashes followed that led to the death of more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslim. Now, leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stand accused of provoking the incident

The verdict, according to the cardinal, “could lead to violence between Muslims and Hindus. Clashes would in turn raise tensions and cause social disorder. As spiritual leaders in India, we have called on all the faithful to pray for our beloved homeland, especially for peaceful acceptance of the sentence. [However,] we fear that someone might resort to unlawful methods to express their dissatisfaction with the ruling”.

The archbishop of Mumbai is the first religious leader to ask his fellow believers to pray for Ayodhya, which, after the destruction of the mosque, was turned into a Hindu temple.

This call to pray, he said, “can be easily understood by the fact that India is a profoundly spiritual nation. Here, religious leaders are much respected and heeded. This is part of India’s culture and life. It is essential for us to lead people against violence and favour true brotherhood.”

“All Indians must be like brothers,” he added. “They must apply the principle of reciprocity among all religions. We must make sure that India is not just an economic power, but that it is spiritual and moral authority be recognised among the nations. The Church is not a party to this case, but it has a role to play, as a bridge builder for understanding, tolerance and respect. For this reason, we must use prayer, the most powerful weapon we have at our disposal.”

Finally, the outcome of the trial “touches everyone, not only Hindus and Muslims. Like the case of the pastor in the United States who wanted to burn the Qur’an, we must continue to fight for religious freedom and respect for places of worship, fundamental rights for progress and development. They are part of our cultural heritage and are protected by our constitution. But above all, they are the foundation of man’s dignity.”

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