Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal leads a peace rally along with Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist leaders in the central Indian town of Bhopal on Oct. 2, marking the 148th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. (Photo by Saji Thomas)
Some 500 people — Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians — marched with lit candles through Bhopal in India on Oct. 2 to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian nation, stressing his ideals of non-violence.
Bhopal Archdiocese, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, organized the march that culminated in an inter-religious prayer gathering. The event marked the 148th birth anniversary of Gandhi, who led India’s struggle for freedom from British rule while advocating non-violent methods.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal who addressed the prayer gathering said the program was part of the church’s efforts to promote "inter-religious harmony and peace" in the state.
The state, where pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party has held power since 2003, has witnessed hundreds of violent incidents against religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims allegedly orchestrated by Hindu groups working to make India a Hindu-only nation.
Archbishop Cornelio stressed the need for "following the footstep of the Gandhi in order to foster harmony and peace" in society.
The archbishop said the nation as a whole "is facing violent sectarian and ideological clashes" such as the lynching of Muslims over eating beef and murders of journalists and writers opposed to right wing Hindu ideologies. Orthodox Hindus do not eat beef as they consider cow a scared animal.
Hindu religious leader Acharya Krishna Kumar Dubey and Sikh leaders Gyani Dilip Singh also addressed the gathering, calling on people to take the path of "non-violence and tolerance" to end discord and bring lasting peace to society.