Lahore, Muslims and Hindus celebrate festival of friendship
During the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan people tie a sacred thread on their friend's wrist. For the first time the Hindu community was able to celebrate in public, and many Muslims helped in the preparation. Eventually all those present signed a statement against religious hatred: "We must protect our multiculturalism".
Lahore (AsiaNews) - About 1,000 people, including many Muslims, yesterday celebrated the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan in a Lahore hotel. It is the first time that the feast was celebrated in public, and organizers were not expecting the participation of so many people of different faiths. The Raksha Bandhan is the festival of the bonds of friendship and the people honor those dear to them encircling the wrists of loved ones with rakhi (sacred colored wires).
Taimur Rahman, a Muslim and famous musician and activist for human rights, was at the event. After receiving a rakhi from a Hindu girl, he began playing Sufi music with his band, for the hundreds of people present in the room. "So far I had only seen this in movies - he says - and this is the first time I have ever received a rakhi by someone in Pakistan. I was moved. Now it is our responsibility to stand up for the rights of those who have chosen us as friends now".
The activist explains: "Our society is infected by extremism. Hindus and Christians are threatened not only by terrorists but also by most of society. For decades our band has promoted the Sufis struggle for in favor of human rights and opposition to extremism".
Yesterday's event was organized by the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) in collaboration with the Hindu Sundhar Sabbha (HSS) movement. Hindus were surprised when many young Muslims offered to be volunteers for the festival. At the end of the day all participants signed a declaration: "We, the signatories, are committed towards our brothers of different religions and ethnic minorities. We are united against violence, discrimination and speading of hatred in the name of religion”.
Kundnani Aroon Kumar, general secretary of HSS, says that usually "we Hindus celebrate our feasts in the temples, with a select audience. Confidentiality is vital in these difficult times, when for example in the province of Sindh many Hindu girls are forcibly converted. " Over the past two years, adds, "10 thousand Hindu families have been forced to migrate to India. In Lahore, the wall of one of our temples was demolished to make way for a new railway. Only two out of 12 places of worship are active in the city".
During the Seeda Deep celebration, the Muslim activist and founder of the IPSS, tied a rakhi to Khalil Tahir Sindhu's wrist, the Minister for Minorities in Punjab and also a Christian. "Unfortunately, the tensions between India and Pakistan - says the woman - have made life of the Hindus here very insecure. Today we participated in this event to honor their tenacity and to join in their joy. We must protect our multiculturalism”.