After India´s Quake, Signs of Unity Appear Among Believers

Relief Efforts Crossing Religious Lines

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NEW DELHI, India, FEB. 18, 2001 ( Despite Hindu fundamentalists´ opposition to Christians´ aiding the victims of the Jan. 26 earthquake, signs of solidarity among religions are sprouting.

The Vishnu Hindu Parishad, the World Hindu Council, had appealed to the population to boycott aid from Christian groups (see ZENIT archives from Feb. 7). But in recent days the atmosphere seems more cordial.

«Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Ishahi … hum sabh hai bhai bhai» — Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christians, we are all brothers — is a phrase often heard in the streets, the SAR Catholic news agency reports.

Relief efforts have been multidenominational, SAR said. Volunteer teams have comprised Muslims from Ahmadabad and Hyderabad, Sikhs from Punjab and Delhi, Hindus from various parts of the country, and Christians from within and outside India. There even was a Buddhist relief camp from Tibet.

Some were cooking, others distributing food, while others managed relief camps and allocated medicines and basic necessities, such as water, kitchen utensils, and blankets.

Volunteers, like the victims they are helping, sleep on the ground, with only a plastic sheet or blanket and tent overhead, SAR said.

On Feb. 9, the Archdiocese of Delhi held an interreligious prayer service in the community center of Sacred Heart Cathedral, as a sign of solidarity with the victims of the quake that killed 25,000 in western India.

Along with the interreligious prayer service, a blood donation campaign was also held for the quake victims.

The interreligious prayer service began with a «bhajan,» sung by the seminarians of Pratiksha, the major seminary of the archdiocese. Veteran Gandhian, Nirmala Deshpande, lit the lamp, and Divine Word Father Dominic Emmanuel began the prayer service with an eyewitness account of the quake´s destruction.

Father Emmanuel told how he was impressed by the spirit of generosity among the victims. When he went to one village to distribute food, he was told by the villagers to keep some food aside for people in neighboring villages who might not have eaten for days.

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