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Pics of Thousands at CSF Walk to pray for persecutors - A Christian response to fundamentalism & terrorism


Thousands of Christians undertook an exhausting walk, in a public gesture of forgiving those responsible for the attacks on Christians, churches and the clergy, which has risen sharply over the past few months. " The intention is to offer a Christian response which is in keeping with what Jesus did on the first Good Friday, when he said, 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do' about his persecutors. We want to tell India and the world that we forgive those who target us, our clergy, institution and properties; but are grieved and cry out that we need to be treated as equal citizens and the law should take its course ", said Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the activist community NGO that organized the pilgrimage.

Starting out from Sacred Heart Church in Santacruz West, in suburban Mumbai, the pilgrims braved the scorching heat, most of them fasting and praying until the religious service called the Stations of the Cross concluded at around 4 pm in the evening. Along the way at various stops over the almost 8 Km route, activists dramatized incidents, believed to have happened when Jesus was killed over 2000 year ago. The serpentine procession passed through the lanes of Mumbai’s Khar, Santacruz, Vakola and Kalina with the crucifixion scenes being enacted (as in the Philippines) which proved to be tearful finale. Many of the pilgrims were with bare feet at the end of a fulfilling spiritual experience of 40 days of prayer, fasting and repentance.

The 'Way of the Cross' devotion or Walk with Jesus relating the suffering of Christ to modern-day living is in its 29th year and draws Christians from all over, with even children, women, priests and nuns joining in to partake in portrayal of the torture and killing of Jesus, enacted through a musical played out on the streets. The faithful mourned for the intention of the day – Christians denied freedom of faith and religious liberty.

Speaking on the theme, Joseph Dias, who started this tradition in India 28 years ago, which has not found a parallel in the country said, " There seems to be a sinister plan to the attacks and the powers behind them could range from political and economic to the persecution being part of an international design to target Christians as is happening in the Gulf or African countries. In the country, the attacks are in the background of new governments both at the centre and states, who are responsible for law and order. Among the comity of nations, the image assiduously cultivated by the prime minister is taking a hit, as he is seen unwilling to reign in those attacking the community.

Indian Christians do not see these as isolated incidents, especially given the increase in frequency and the fact that they are backed by statements from prominent fundamentalists or even elected public representatives. We are alarmed and afraid at the attempt to demonize Christians and have the community's basic human rights violated. We are seen as soft-targets as we do not retaliate, as commanded by our faith and this makes the government all the more duty-bound to ensure that our rights guaranteed are not trampled upon ".

According to The CSF press release, " the government apathy towards Indian Christians is taking its toll, even as communal elements target the community. Jesus told us to pray for our persecutors and this is a public display of our hurt sentiments and a cry for justice. There can be no development without peace, justice or communal harmony ". Forms of discrimination faced by the community mentioned were those of police action, political alienation, bureaucratic victimization, anti-conversion laws, targeted violence, economic deprivation, social boycott, etc.

Some of The 15 Stations of the Cross enacted were – the arrest of Jesus, Jesus being sentenced by Pontius Pilate, the falls of Jesus, Jesus meeting the women of Jerusalem, his mother and disciples at the cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus… This, the activists feel is a dignified Christian way of protesting against the subtle and not so subtle attacks on the community.

Thousands of passer-byes witnessed the Calvary (place where Jesus was crucified) story, with biblical characters acting out the arrest and the last few hours before Jesus death. Similar enactments are known to happen in the Philippines and Latin America, with a couple of Christians actually being nailed to a cross, to experience in a small way Jesus' suffering.

Joseph Dias added that " initially it started since many non-Christians believed that Good Friday was a feast, rather than a day of mourning. He pointed out that “while fundamentalists of various hues and colours are persecuting Christians, the inaction and official neglect by the government is appalling. As a micro minority, who are not aggressive, politically influential and spread out; the governments of the day takes us for granted. This therefore also signals the heralding of Christians as vociferous and politically active citizens”.

The pilgrims stopped still for a special prayer at 3 pm, believed to be the time, when Jesus died or the moment of grace to pray for the intentions and the theme. They now look forward to a new hope, that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday brings, which was also enacted, since Christians believe that the crucifixion in not the end.

For More Info, Contact - Joseph Dias +91 9769555657 csfpost@gmail.com


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