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India

Shia-Sunni joint Eid prayer fosters peace

The two sects prayed together and then met with other religious communities in the spirit of brotherhood

ucanews.com reporter, Lucknow

ucanews.com reporter, Lucknow

Updated: September 16, 2016 10:34 AM GMT
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Shia-Sunni joint Eid prayer fosters peace

Father Donald De Souza, vicar general of Lucknow Diocese, greets a Muslim after he performed his Eid prayer at the special Shia-Sunni congregational prayer at a shrine in Lucknow on Sept. 13. (ucanews.com photo)

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Taking their positions side by side, in multiple rows, a few hundred Shia and Sunni Muslims offered their Eid al-Adha prayers together after which they met with local Hindu, Sikh and Christians.

"In Lucknow, sectarian tensions flared up occasionally. To bridge the divide between two sides we founded Shoulder to Shoulder or "S2S" and came up with this idea of holding a joint Shia-Sunni congregational prayers," said Arif Durrani, a volunteer from the group.

Some years ago no one could imagine the two sects joining together like this. "But our initiative managed to mobilize people and help Shia and Sunni brothers stand together in prayer. This Shia-Sunni joint namaaz [worship] is a landmark achievement," Durrani said.

About 85 percent of world's Muslims are Sunni and close to 15 percent are Shia. An estimated 25-30 percent of India's 170 million Muslims are Shias. Worldwide violence between the two has intensified in recent years. Conflict between the two groups is present in the Syrian civil war and Iraq. The so-called Islamic State has also launched genocide-level attacks against Shias.

The split between Shias and Sunnis occurred centuries ago in a dispute over who should succeed Prophet Muhammad as the leader of the entire Islamic community. Since then, their religious rituals, traditions and customs have followed different routes.

 

Hindu, Sikh and Christian religious and community leaders at the the joint Shia-Sunni congregational prayer at a Shia shrine in Lucknow on Sept. 13. (ucanews.com photo)

 

When the Eid al-Adha prayer was organized last year it was a Muslim-only affair. However, this time non-Muslim community members were invited.

Muslims who came out of the shrine after prayers hugged Sikh, Hindu and Christian friends and exchanged greetings. In the following social event Sikh volunteers, some of whom were members of S2S, distributed snacks.

Father Donald De Souza, chancellor and spokesperson of Lucknow Diocese, who was part of the interreligious gathering on the Muslim feast day said that bridging the religious divide was doing God's work.

"Programs like this help to unite us and make us feel that we all are brothers and sisters, no matter which religion we belong to," Father De Souza told ucanews.com.

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