09/08/2008, 00.00
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Day of prayer and fasting for Christians in Orissa, together with Hindus and Muslims

by Nirmala Carvalho
In many cities, Hindu religious representatives have condemned the violence against Christians in Orissa. Cardinal Vithayathil calls the day a sign of a "new era": the Christians have responded to the violence with nonviolence, following the teaching of Jesus.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The day of prayer and fasting launched by the Indian Church as a response to the violence against Christians in India has been welcomed by tens of thousands of people. Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, head of the bishops' conference, calls it "the sign of a new era". The "novelty" is in the fact that instead of responding "to violence with violence", Christians have "fasted and prayed to overcome evil", leaving the ultimate judgment to God.

With this day, the cardinal continues, the Indian Church "is giving a very powerful catechesis to India, Asia and the world - believers and non-believers - of the teachings of Christ, the Sermon on the Mount: ’Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, forgive, and by this love the world will know you are my disciples"".

All over India, Catholics gathered in the churches or in open spaces to express their participation in the sufferings of their brothers and sisters in faith in Orissa.

In Orissa itself, where a pogrom against the faithful has been underway for more than a week, all of the ceremonies had to be guarded by the police, who watched over the bishops' residences, the churches, and other Christian institutions.

In Ranchi (Jharkhand), Cardinal Thelesphore Toppo gathered more than 6,000 people on the Loyola grounds, a few hundred meters from the cathedral. Members from all the religions participated in the celebration, with prayers and readings taken from the different sacred books: Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Sarnas (tribal religions), Protestants, and Catholics. The mayor of the city, Rama Xalxo, also participated in the gathering, which lasted more than an hour and a half.

In Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias gathered people of different religions in Azad Maidan, to express rejection of the pseudo-religious struggle against the Christians of Orissa. Swami Agnivesh, head of the world council of Arya Samaj (a reformist Hindu group) also participated. He emphasized that "the Hindu population in general does not support the atrocities unleashed by the radicals in Orissa". Referring to the destruction and burning of churches and Christian villages, he asked all to "kindle inner fire instead, and work on behalf of humanity".

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