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PEACE AND HOPE IN A TIME OF CONFLICT

Dec. 17, 2017

Every year, as we approach Christmas, His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and the Archdiocese host an occasion where all faiths come together to celebrate our oneness in our desire for peace and goodwill.

In our present time, the differences seem to be growing: there are conflicts between persons, religious ideologies and nations. While we long for peace, it seems that this hope is a mirage. As part of the theme for the Interreligious Prayer Service and Discussion at the Holy Name High School, Colaba, on December 17, 2017, eminent religious scholars and representatives from different religious traditions looked for the answer to the problem by finding the answer to another question: What can we do within our own respective communities to bring peace and understanding among all people. What can each of us do to be an ambassador of hope?

Pope Francis’ words are so poignantly appropriate: “Sadly, not a day passes that we do not hear of acts of violence, conflict, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, killings and destruction. It is horrible that at times, to justify such barbarism, the name of a religion or the name of God himself is invoked. May there be clear condemnation of these iniquitous attitudes that profane the name of God... May the religions be wombs of life, bearing the merciful love of God to a wounded and needy humanity; may they be doors of hope helping to penetrate the walls erected by pride and fear.”  It is thus fitting that this was the focal point of the prayer service and discussion.

Each of the guests was welcomed with a rose and the Choir of St. John the Evangelist, Marol, led the audience in singing Carols to ring in the joy of Christmas and the hope that the Child Jesus brings. His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, then inaugurated the event by placing the image of Baby Jesus in the Crib and lighting the lamp. The students from Gyan Ashram, through a beautifully choreographed Indian dance, told the story of the annunciation and birth of Our Lord.

The theme of the panel discussion was introduced through a video that asked the question: ‘Where do we go from here?’ Each of the religious leaders from faiths that are practiced in our country - Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jain and Christian - all eloquently elaborated on how their respective religious traditions strive to bring an awareness of the divine within and among us. This awareness enables us to respond to our fellow brothers and sisters of all faiths with love, dignity and respect. The moment our sense of self overtakes the sense of the other, we start looking down on the other and this sense of superiority is the start of conflict.

 

The discussion was both enlightening and fruitful as all present pledged to work for peace and to ensure that love, respect and dignity would be engraved on all hearts so as to bring hope in the world. His Eminence, Cardinal Gracias, thanked all who were present and the occasion concluded with a prayer.



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