09/02/2008, 00.00
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Sr Nirmala Joshi: Let us put down the weapons of violence; religion is a work of peace

For the occasion of the feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, on September 5, the superior of the Missionaries of Charity launches an appeal to all Indians to break the chain of violence taking place in Orissa. The Italian bishops' conference also launches a day of prayer and fasting for September 5, as a sign of solidarity with the persecuted Christians.

Calcutta (AsiaNews) - An appeal to all India, that it break the chain of violence and "the abuse of religion" has been launched by Sr Nirmala Joshi, superior of the Missionaries of Charity. In the appeal sent to AsiaNews, the sister, who succeeded Mother Teresa, says "let us put down the weapon of hatred and violence" and "reach out in love to each other" following the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, in order to build "the civilization of love" in India and in the world.

Sr Nirmala's words come after the cycle of violence that broke out against Christians in Orissa following the assassination of the Hindu radical Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, carried out by a group of Maoists. So far at least 20 have been killed, hundreds wounded, 45 churches have been burned, social centers, hostels, orphanages, and hospitals have been sacked and destroyed, and hundreds of homes have been burned. Tens of thousands of people who fled from the violence are still living in the forests or in shelters set up by the local government (see photo). The sister asks for eternal rest for Swami Laxanananda and for the massacred Christians, calling upon the "brothers and sisters" of India not to "use religion to divide us" or use it as an instrument of violence.

Sr Nirmala's appeal comes just a few days before the liturgical feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (September 5). For the occasion, the Italian bishops's conference has also decided to call for a day of prayer and fasting "as a sign of spiritual closeness and solidarity with our brothers and sisters so harshly tested in their faith".

Here is the complete text of Sr Nirmala's appeal:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Orissa and all over India,

Let us not forget our true identity as the beloved children of God our Father. We are brothers and sisters of one another no matter what our religion, race, culture or language is, whether we are rich or poor. Nothing should separate us.

Above all, let us not use religion to divide us. Essence of all religion is love - love of God and love of one another. Violence on the ground of religion is an abuse of religion.

"Religion is meant to be a work of love. It is not meant to destroy peace and unity. Works of love are works of peace. Let us use religion to become one heart full of love in the heart of God". (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the name of God and in the name of our own humanity, created for greater things, to love and to be loved eternally, and in the name of our country and its noble heritage, and in the name of the poor, the children, and all our suffering brothers and sisters who are victims of this senseless violence and destruction, I make this appeal: let us pray, opening our mind and heart to the light and love of God. Let us put down the weapon of hatred and violence and put on the armor of love. Let us forgive one another and ask forgiveness from one another for the wrong we have done to each other and reach out in love to each other.

Let us pray for the repose of the souls of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and his four associates and all our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives during this violence. Let us pray for each other and ask our Mother, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to pray for us so that we may become channels of God's own peace, love and joy to one another and builders of the civilization of love!

God bless you,

Sr. M. Nirmala, M.C.
Superior General
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