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Many faiths join Christian festival

Feast of Saint Lawrence a shining example of Indian interfaith harmony

Muslim women using the holy oil given at the shrine Muslim women using the holy oil given at the shrine
  • Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore
  • India
  • January 28, 2011
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A three-day annual feast of Saint Lawrence that ended yesterday at a Catholic shrine in southern India has attracted thousands of people from various religions.

The Shrine of St. Lawrence at Karkal near Mangalore in Karnataka state is more than 200 years old. It traditionally celebrates the three-day feast in the last week of January.

Father Arthur Pereira, the shrine’s present director, says large number of Hindus, Jains and Muslims attended the feast.

“This shrine is known for interreligious harmony despite fundamental attitudes that are prevalent in the present times,” the priest told ucanews.com.

Karnataka is one of the states in India where Hindu militants have targeted Christians over the past few years.

Father Pereira says people forget their religious differences at the shrine. “They become extremely spiritual and emotional. They remove sandals and kiss the ground as a sign of deep devotion,” he said.

People working outside visit the shrine on holidays. “We offer them flowers and holy water near the saint’s statue,” the priest added.

John D’Silva, a local Catholic lay leader, said people from other religions outnumbered Christians on the third day of the feast. They revere the saint as the “god of Karkala.”

Kishore and Seema Rao, a Hindu couple from Mumbai, said their son regained his health after praying there.

“Doctors could not cure him of his problem. But our visit and prayers at this shrine has seen his health improve,” Kishore told ucanews.com.

Raziya, a Muslim woman, has visited the shrine for the past 10 years.

“I had a growth on my tongue and a boil on one hand. They disappeared after I promised to light candles at the shrine,” she explained.

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