They gathered at an iftar held by Delhi Archdiocese against the backdrop of a riot in the national capital
Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi (left) with faith leaders at the first-ever iftar organized by the Archdiocese of Delhi on April 22. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
Leaders of different faiths at the first-ever iftar organized by the Archdiocese of Delhi pledged to remain united amid sectarian violence and growing unrest in India.
The iftar or evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset was a symbolic gesture to show solidarity with members of the national capital’s Islamic community who are fasting during the holy month.
“Through this program we wanted to spread love and peace among all people,” Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi said at the interreligious event held by the archdiocese’s Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue on April 22.
The prelate said there was nothing to gain from what was happening in the country, where one community was pitted against the other in the name of religion, caste and creed.
“Let not the communal forces divide us,” said Archbishop Couto while urging all faith communities to come together and address the challenges before the country.
Faith leaders from the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities acknowledged with concern that India was indeed facing a difficult situation due to communal strife in the past few years.
"Yes, there is no doubt the country is facing a difficult time with the fascist forces becoming more active and trying to divide people in the name of religion"
Father Felix Jones, who heads the Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue, said more than 50 people of different faiths attended the event. Among them were Goswami Sushil Maharaj, national convener of the Bhartiya Sarv Dharm Sansad, Swami Veer Singh Hitkari of the All India Ravidasiya Dharm Sangathan, A.K. Merchant of the Bahai Community of India, Mohammad Salim Engineer and Mohammad Ahmad of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Buddhist monk Dhammapiya, secretary-general of the International Buddhist Confederation, and Brahmakumari sisters’ Husain Bandi Imam.
Father Felix said holding the iftar was just the beginning and more such events would be held to address issues facing society.
“It is the best time of the month, so let’s pray for brotherhood and fraternity. Yes, there is no doubt the country is facing a difficult time with the fascist forces becoming more active and trying to divide people in the name of religion,” said Engineer, the Muslim leader.
He said the only way to fight the fascist forces was to stand united and fight back. “For that, the religious leaders will have to lead the way,” he added.
Buddhist monk Dhammapiya said nobody can exist alone. “The principle of hatred destroys and divides while the principle of love builds.”
Goswami Sushil Maharaj who is also the national president of the Indian Parliament of Religions, said: “Whichever faith we believe in, one faith common to all is that we all are brothers and sisters of the Almighty and when one suffers others can’t celebrate. We should respect each other’s faith.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore is also going to host an interfaith iftar on April 26.
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