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Cardinal Coutts celebrates Diwali in Pakistan temple

Catholic leader calls on religious communities to promote mutual love and unity

Cardinal Coutts celebrates Diwali in Pakistan temple

Cardinal Joseph Coutts (second from right) celebrates the Hindu festival of Diwali at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Karachi, Pakistan, on Nov. 3. (Photo supplied)

Cardinal Joseph Coutts has called for unity on the eve of Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights, during a visit to Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the biggest temple of Karachi in southern Pakistan.

“I feel sad about the present circumstances in our country. Unfortunately, differences are growing between religious communities. We should meet up to promote love and unity,” he said, addressing the state-owned broadcaster PTV during his visit on Nov. 3.

Wearing a headscarf, the cardinal, accompanied by priests, also visited the Sikh shrine of Guru Nanak in the same compound. Temple trustees presented them with sweets and Ajrak shawls, the traditional block-printed garment from Sindh province.

The staff of different church commissions joined Hindu families in lighting up the evening with sparklers. More than 200 attended the two-hour ceremony held amid security by police and rangers.

Several Christian activists and organizations including the interreligious Rawadari Tehreek (Movement for Tolerance) also shared Diwali greetings on social media.

“I pray and hope that Diwali ends extremism and intolerance and promotes moderation in our society. Congratulations on mutual happiness,” said Samson Salamat, chairman of Rawadari Tehreek, in a Facebook post

Interfaith harmony has declined in our society. Temples are being attacked despite repeated renovations by the state

This is the first time a cardinal has celebrated Diwali in a Hindu temple, said Vijay Mujrani, a member of Prem Sagar, a chapter of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.

“We will celebrate Christmas in the cathedral whether he invites us or not. Interfaith harmony has declined in our society. Temples are being attacked despite repeated renovations by the state. Awareness is needed to build a healthy mindset,” he told UCA News.

The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is one of the six functional temples in Karachi, which is home to 800,000 Hindus. Thirteen Hindu temples in the seaport city have remained sealed since the partition in 1947 and Prem Sagar is fighting a court case for their recovery.  

The Sindh government has declared a public holiday for Diwali on Nov. 4. Chela Ram Kewlani, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, has requested ensuring the security of the Hindu community and their temples during the festive season until Nov. 6.

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Hindu leaders have been complaining of increasing attacks on their temples around the country.

On Oct. 29, vandals desecrated statues and robbed the donation box of Devi Mata Temple in Jamshoro, Sindh province. They also removed necklaces of the deities. The suspects are locals from the temple vicinity, claimed local police.

Last month Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to collect 33 million rupees (US$194,000) in fines from 100 people arrested for vandalizing the century-old Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi in Karak district in December 2020.

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