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Let’s Not Be Biased

Let’s Not Be Biased

There’s a WhatsApp message going around decrying the festival of ‘Holi’ as evil with a whole lot of references from the Bible. One of the senders of that message, which brazenly claims the mention of ‘Holi’ in the Bible, says it has come from ‘a senior Catholic priest.’ It is pertinent to note that while we may not believe what the Hindu scriptures say, we as Christians, whether priests or lay folk, have no business making assertions and allegations as regards the sanctity or otherwise of their festivals and religious practices as long as they do not coerce us into participating in their rituals and, of course, as long as we lack the guts to evangelize.

The truth about holi put simply is that it celebrates the triumph of good over evil. So does diwali. Do the writers and forwarders of such innuendo as referred to above care to even browse the net — forget studying the Hindu scriptures! — to learn at least the basics of such festivals? What scriptures of various religions say might appear mythical, legendary or apocryphal to us as do ours to them. But a little understanding would go a long way in promoting peace and harmony. Are we as believers aware that Onam and Pongal, both of which are Hindu festivals, are celebrated with gusto by South Indian Catholics across the country and the world, Religious houses leading the way?

It’d also be nice to know that Hindu religious practices have long been in vogue in Catholic parish churches. Take the aarati for example. What place does the ritual have in Catholic Liturgy? What have the coconut, kumkum, agarbatti and the lighting of the brass lamp (which follows a specific norm) have to do with the Christian Faith per se? And yet it is all being used in our liturgy in certain places. Long before Vasai was carved out of Bombay as a separate diocese, a priest there had taken the unduly bold step to set up an idol of Jesus Christ in the Ganesha pose and held daily aarati before it. Of course, hilarious as it may sound, I’m not sure whether he had the Ganesha style immersion too!

The net is replete with photographs of Cardinal Ivan Dias lighting a brass lamp before an idol of Ganapati and the seminary at Goregaon East celebrating Diwali at the liturgical level. Such sacrilegious stuff is what we need to question, given the fact that it involves official approbation rather than miniscule matters like saying or even joining our Hindu brethren in celebrating a “Happy Holi” or “Happy Diwali.” If I may ask, why are we so selective in questioning or opposing one irregularity in our religious or social observance and overlooking several others? Is it because we’ve been either rubbed the wrong way by one entity and immensely favoured by another?

All said and done, we need to really put our heads and hearts together to both singly and jointly identify the truth of everything whereby we are able to highlight what fellow believers can benefit from. We need to bring into the open how gimmicks like those described above have in no way cut ice with our Hindu brethren. Knocking off the ‘X’ from the name of the seminary and replacing ‘Seminary’ with ‘College’, or putting up banners wishing Ganesh devotees a happy Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating Diwali liturgically and so on, have made no difference to the way the adherents of the Catholic Faith are being treated: land being demanded from the municipality for road widening, huge segments of parish grounds and graveyards being earmarked for unknown purposes and the like. You name the nonsense and it’s evident in the games being played by the municipality and the government with our Church properties. That is what we need to oppose and question boldly rather be bothered about having sinned by taking part in a Holi or Diwali celebration.

We already have our own feast of the light, i.e. the Solemn Easter Vigil when we celebrate the light that gives us light and life, the light that can neither be snuffed out nor be matched by any other. Why celebrate Diwali liturgically?

Let’s keep in mind that we already have enough keeping us on our toes in relation to the practice of the Faith. Why add to our woes by discussing the merits and demerits of Hindu festivals on WhatsApp which can willy-nilly get into wrong hands? If trouble erupts on account of our carelessness, no amount of ‘ I merely forwarded what I received’ or ‘ Forwarded as received’ or ‘ It came from a senior diocesan priest’ is gonna help save our skin, running for cover proving futile. Let those who have sense refrain from indulging in nonsense.

(Published on 03rd April 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 14)#