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Vatican's Diwali greeting to Hindus stresses mutual respect

Goodwill message emphasizes importance of going beyond tolerance

Vatican's Diwali greeting to Hindus stresses mutual respect

An Indian child lights a candle at the Madan Mohan Malviya stadium on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Allahabad last year. (Photo by Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)

October 17, 2017

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The Vatican has sent a greeting to Hindus celebrating the Diwali festival with a message focused on how mutual respect can be fostered to help create a healthy society.

"May this festival of lights illumine your minds and lives, bring joy to your hearts and homes, and strengthen your families and communities," said a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. 

Diwali, also known as the "festival of lights," is celebrated every year in October or November with the dates being determined by the Hindu lunar calendar. This year it is occurring Oct. 19.

Signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the statement pointed out the growth of intolerance in the world and offered methods on how it can be addressed. However, the statement said that tolerance on its own is not enough if lasting peace and true harmony are the objectives.

"What is also needed is genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and customs within our communities, which in turn contribute to the health and unity of society as a whole," said the statement.  

"To see pluralism and diversity as a threat to unity leads tragically to intolerance and violence," it warned.

"Respect for others is an important antidote to intolerance since it entails authentic appreciation for the human person, and his or her inherent dignity," read the statement.  

"In the light of our responsibility to society, fostering such respect demands showing esteem for different social, cultural and religious customs and practices."

The Vatican's statement has been made amidst reports of growing intolerance towards India's Christian minority by hard-line Hindu groups. Following the 2014 general election when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in New Delhi, several Hindu groups took this as a mandate to work for a Hindu-only India. As part of this, these groups stepped up their anti-Christian activities.

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