Christians pray for India on Gandhi's birth anniversary

Father of the nation and freedom fighter remembered at Christian ecumenical program
Christians pray for India on Gandhi's birth anniversary

Christians pray for the Indian nation in New Delhi on Oct. 2, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)

Hundreds of Christians from various denominations prayed together for India on Oct. 2, marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation.

Delhi Archdiocese organized an ecumenical program, Prayer for India, in New Delhi, recalling Gandhi’s ideals of peace and non-violence.

India is going through "tough times now, fighting unemployment, natural disasters, hate and religious conflict,” said Divine Word Father Felix Jones, who heads the archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue.

"We could have observed the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi in many different ways. But we thought it best if all Christians came together to seek God's help and mercy for the country.”

Gandhi (1869-1948) was known as the apostle of peace after he led India's struggle for freedom from British colonial rule through a non-violent movement of non-corporation.

He worked for the unity of Indian people, fighting discriminative and oppressive customs and rituals based on caste, religion and ethnicity.

Naturam Godse, a Hindu religious fanatic, shot Gandhi dead on Jan. 30, 1948, five months after the British left India. Godse and his supporters accused Gandhi of speaking for the rights of Muslims.

Religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians claim Hindu fanatics have stepped up their activities since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

They complain that Hindu groups push for Hindu dominance, discarding the ideals of freedom fighters like Gandhi, who fought for religious coexistence and secularism.

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi prayed for "repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace" at the program. He said the task of Christians is to "practice what we learned from the Church's teaching like forgiveness, love for our neighbors."

To build a peaceful society, Christians should become "the salt and light" through "forgiveness, love and reconciliation."

Retired Archbishop Vincent Concessao wanted Christians to recommit "ourselves to non-violence and peace. We should also commit ourselves to serve our nation."

Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, prayed for religious freedom, stressing that India’s constitution allows citizens the right to practice and propagate any faith of choice.

He said several people had been killed in India in the name of religion in recent years. "It is time we prayed for the divine mercy that people may have respect for all faiths and proclaim brotherhood and peace," he said.

Cow vigilante groups have attacked and sometimes lynched people accused of possessing or transporting beef. Orthodox Hindus consider the cow a revered animal.

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Published reports show that at least 44 people have been killed in cow vigilante attacks since 2015 in over 80 incidents. Such attacks have also injured 140 people. At least 36 of the dead were Muslims, but they also included socially poor Dalit Hindus and tribal Christians.

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