It wasn’t a venue where anyone would expect to find a Catholic priest. But Fides News Agency reported September 4, 2018, that there was great reason for the demonstration of solidarity.
An Indian Catholic priest spoke to an assembly of the Muslim faithful gathered in a mosque for Friday prayers, thanking them for humanitarian aid received after the recent floods in Kerala. As Fides learned, Fr. Joseph Puthussery visited the Juma mosque at Vechoor in Kottayam district, Kerala (state of South India) and delivered a thanksgiving speech at the prayer hall. The priest reported that, with a spirit of great solidarity, many Muslim faithful brought food and assistance to the flood victims who had taken shelter at his church, located in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
St. Anthony church in Achinakom, in the district of Kottayam, offered shelter and protection to over 580 homeless people, victims of the floods that affected 12 of the 14 districts of Kerala in mid-August. Christian structures have done everything to help the displaced and found themselves facing the emergency, with a lack of food and water.
“I straightaway went to the Mosque, I met the imam and requested his help. After the day’s prayers, Muslim brothers came to the church with a large quantity of food and water”, said Fr. Puthussery to Fides. Muslims provided humanitarian assistance to the homeless in church for several days. “Besides food and water, the youth attached to the mosque also arranged for medicines”, notes Fr. Puthussery.
Now the authorities of the mosque – after the commitment to solidarity – have made another unusual and prophetic gesture: they offered a Christian priest the pulpit that is usually reserved for a “Maulvi” (Muslim cleric) and is used by him to address his people.
The priest told the faithful: “I have no words to express our gratitude to the Muslim brothers for the generous support they offered during the difficult period”. In his around 10-minute speech, the Catholic priest had said: “Though the floods have taken away many valuables from us, what it took away first were the walls that we have built to separate each other. It has washed away the arrogance and selfishness from our minds”. Fr Puthussery recalled the appeal of Pope Francis to “build bridges, not walls”, underlining the need to continue interreligious collaboration to promote harmony in society. “This fraternal bond must not cease: we will have to transmit the values we have rediscovered through this calamity to new generations”, he added.
Niyaz Nasser, one of over 250 Muslims present in the mosque, said that “a different and moving experience” was experienced: “It was a moment of great joy and pride that gives us hope for a bright future”, said Nasser.