Tuesday, October 10, 2006

MANGALORE: Catholics Pray for Peace

October 9, 2006

Catholics Pray For Peace As Riot-hit Mangalore Remains Under Curfew

MANGALORE, India (UCAN) -- Catholic churches in Mangalore recently organized special prayers for harmony after Hindu-Muslim riots disrupted life in the southern Indian city.

"We are facing a very bad and sad situation," Bishop Aloysius Paul D'Souza of Mangalore told UCA News on Oct. 8, after attending a peace meeting along with Hindu and Muslim religious leaders. Mangalore, a coastal city in Karnataka state, has been the scene of Hindu-Muslim rioting since Oct. 1.

At the meeting, Bishop D'Souza related that he has urged people to view everyone as children of the same God, to "live and let live," compromise with one another, and adopt a forgiving attitude.

He earlier used electronic mail to issue a peace message to the public and also sent a circular to all parishes to "pray for peace" in the city where "communal harmony has existed for several centuries."

Clashes between groups in various parts of the city have resulted in the deaths of two Muslims, including a cleric, and the wounding of more than 80 people. On Oct. 7, the administration imposed a curfew and a shoot-on-sight order for curfew violators in the city.

A Hindu group blocked a vehicle that Muslims were using to transport cattle to a slaughtering house in the city on Oct. 4. Eating beef has been banned in Mangalore following opposition from Hindus, who consider the cow sacred.

The city witnessed Hindu-Muslim riots three days earlier when Muslims protested against a tableau in a Hindu procession that portrayed a Muslim worshipping Durga, a Hindu goddess.

The police have arrested more than 300 people in 97 cases registered in connection with violence and group clashes. State Home Minister M.P. Prakash, who visited the city on Oct. 9, said that damage to public property amounting to 10 million rupees (about US$220,480) has been reported.

Bishop D'Souza said Sunday Masses on Oct. 8 had no problems at parishes in rural areas, but the curfew made it difficult for city-dwelling parishioners to attend Mass. Father Peter Noronha of St. Sebastian's parish told UCA News on Oct. 8 that only a few people turned up for the Masses due to the curfew. He added that the parish organized special prayers for peace and harmony.

According to Father Noronha, some Catholics attended the services when the administration relaxed the curfew between 9 and 11 in the morning. "Instead of queuing up in provision stores, they opted to come to the church," he noted.

He also said that people came using side roads to avoid main roads where the police and paramilitary forces patrolled, and that his church conducted all five of its Sunday Masses, even if attendance was less than normal.

However, Father Walter D'Mello, parish priest of a downtown church, told UCA News that people came only during the curfew relaxation hours. People were not allowed to leave their houses otherwise, he pointed out, and the only vehicles seen on the main roads were police vehicles.

Roshan D'Souza, a Catholic youth leader, said Hindu fundamentalists did not spare Catholics. Two months ago, a group of Bajrang Dal (party of the strong and stout) activists attacked several Christian-owned shops for allegedly selling beef. About 2,000 people joined a rally Christians organized soon after the attacks, but the rally "went unnoticed as we did not resort to any violence," D'Souza said. As for the current violence, the youth leader lamented that "a handful" of criminals "have taken the city for a ride."

Father John Fernandez, convener of Dharma Samanwaya (religious equality), said his interreligious harmony movement plans to organize prayer and peace meetings in schools and colleges once life returns to normal in the city.

Members of the movement believe harmony is best achieved through education, so they reach out only to students, Father Fernandez said. "Once our children are properly educated and motivated to respect every religion, such violence could be prevented in future," he said.
Reproduced by Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN (

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