From Fr. Francis Rodrigues
Beltangady, May 12 (Ucan News): A temple festival celebrated jointly by Christians and Hindus in Mangalore yesterday has been hailed as a breakthrough in community relations. A local television channel hailed the event as “a new chapter and new approach toward harmonious living.” It wanted all in Karnataka to follow the Naravi example.
Jeevandhar Kumar, a local leader of Jainism and temple festival committee convener, said politicians divide people along religious and caste lines. “We have transcended those petty borders,” he added.
A group of Catholics joined Hindus last night in celebrating the temple festival.
The local Suryanarayana Temple began the annual 10-day festival on May 6. Catholic parishioners had helped renovate the temple premises for the festival.
The temple officials then invited Catholics to the festival. “We do practice different religious cults and rituals. But all of us are the members of one common religion of humanity,” said Father Louis Cutinha, pastor of St. Antony Parish of Naravi in Mangalore diocese.
The priest led more than 200 parishioners in the temple procession. “This festival is a great occasion to experience harmony in diversity,” the priest said. Christians organized a boat tableau wishing well for the festival, with its message of harmony, in a 1-km procession through the local market.
The theme of the procession was, “Before God all are one.” “The role played by the Christians is really heartwarming especially in the context of communal tension around us,” Father Cutinha said.
He said the Christians’ gesture helped remove earlier hesitation and a communication gap between local Christians and Hindus.The two communities drifted apart after attacks on several Christian institutions in Karnataka state in 2008. Mangalore, a Christian stronghold in the state, witnessed most attacks.
Church groups say the attacks began after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) came to power in the state in May 2008.
Suspected Hindu radicals attacked three Christian homes for the poor last month, accusing them of proselytising. Sri Sri N. Vasanth Bhat, the temple priest in Naravi, said local Christians for the first time showed an example of harmonious cooperation.