Written by Sherry
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 09:54
It is stunning to realize that a mere two weeks before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Catholics held a huge (100,000 in attendance) peace rally i downtown Mumbai.
Catholic bishops, leaders of other religions and human rights activists who addressed the Nov. 15 Sadbhawna Melawa (peace rally) called for harmony and peace in India, which they said is being ravaged by divisive forces.
Bombay Catholic Sabha (council) organized the rally at Shivaji Park in downtown Mumbai, a popular venue for political events. Participants in the three-hour rally that began at 3:30 p.m. protested religion-linked violence, bomb blasts and mob terrorism in the country, and pledged to work for communal harmony and peace.
After leading the opening prayer, Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Penha read out a message from Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay that highlighted the need for fellowship and unity. "India is a great country and there should not be room for terrorism, violence and hatred. God will be with us if we only love our neighbor," the message said.
Bishop Penha now looks after Bombay archdiocese, India's largest diocese in terms of Catholic population, as Cardinal Gracias recuperates from cancer surgery. The archdiocese based in Mumbai has retained the old name of the city, India's commercial capital, 1,410 kilometers southwest of New Delhi.
Reminding participants that they are all God's children, Bishop Penha urged them to join the struggle "to transform society from hate to love, from division to unity, from violence to peace."
Bishop Percival Fernandez, another of the archdiocese's three auxiliaries, told the people hate propaganda feeds terrorism and "should be stopped before it is too late." Citing terrorist attacks in various parts of the country, he said: "Peace, my dear friends, is not absence of war but harmony, justice and love." The biggest problem India faces now, in his view, is the threat to sectarian harmony.
Dolphy D'Souza, who heads Bombay Catholic Sabha, estimated 100,000 people attended the program. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims joined the mainly Catholic crowd to pray for peace and pledge to "build bridges of love and understanding," he told UCA News on Nov. 16.
The lay leader described the gathering as "a rainbow of all faiths, castes, creeds, organizations and common citizens" that has kindled hope amid "dark clouds" of divisive politics. He told the rally recent attacks on churches and Christians, especially in the eastern state of Orissa, have upset all Christians in the country.
Speakers from other religions also saw the rally as an auspicious sign and said they hoped the momentum for peace would continue.
Muslim academician Mehmud-ur Rehman remarked that such a huge gathering signaled the triumph of love over hate. "If each one here could become an ambassador of peace, we can overcome divisive forces in the country," the former university vice chancellor asserted.
Sikh leader Surjan Singh Ahuja called the rally "a good beginning to spread the message that violence and hatred have no place in any religion."
Buddhist monk Venerable Bante Ayupal called for a federation of religions to fight discrimination and violence.
Hindu leader G.K. Bhanji commented that he knew of no other meeting at the park that did not discuss politics or a political agenda. Rather, people craving peace had gathered there, he said.
Teesta Setalvad, secretary of Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace, condemned sectarian violence as a cancer weakening the country's democracy: "Violence against any minority has to be treated as violence against humanity. This can only be done when the rule of law is enforced properly."
Obviously the terrorist attacks were planned for months in advance but the first word that came to mind as I read this was "spiritual warfare".
There is a tremendous need for organized, prolonged, intercessory prayer to address the spiritual power behind the many and complex historical and cultural sources of this violence.
Pray for the peace of India.