Church urges Christians to join Hindu Holi festival

Prelate in Madhya Pradesh sees celebration as golden opportunity to set differences aside
Church urges Christians to join Hindu Holi festival

Divine Word Father Roy Thomas (far left in shirt) joins young people smearing colored paint on each other to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors, in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, on March 2. (Photo by ucanews.com)

A Catholic Church leader in India has encouraged Hindus celebrating Holi on March 2 to welcome people of all religions so the event, also known as the festival of colors, can serve as a bridge between different faiths.

In Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh, which has been branded a hotbed of anti-Christian activity, people could be seen dancing to the sound of beating drums throughout the day. They daubed colored paint on each others' faces and clothes and sprinkled water to mark the advent of spring and wish for a plentiful harvest.

"It is a festival of joy and unity, peace and harmony for all India," said Bhopal Archbishop Leo Cornelio.

The prelate wished "happiness and prosperity to our Hindu brethren" in the predominantly Hindu state, where he has been making efforts to build inter-religious amity by promoting the festivals of each faith.

Archbishop Cornelio, who also serves as chief of the state bishops' council, made an appeal for "maintaining unity and harmony in the country" in a special festive message.

"The entire Christian community is with the majority community promising our support for all forms of universal brotherhood," he said.

The prelate's appeal comes as Christians complain of rising cases of radical Hindu violence after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

A report last month by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India, reflected the spike in attacks.

It said 736 attacks against Christians were reported in 2017, more than double the 348 cases in 2016.

Christians make up less than 1 percent of the state's 73 million people. They suffered 52 attacks last year, up from 28 one year earlier, according to the report.

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