Religious leaders call for unity and peace

January 18, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

UnityNepal, January 17, 2012: On a frigid day in the capital, representatives of numerous faith traditions joined together to mark World Religion Day, commemorated on January 15.

Amid petrol shortages, power cuts and temperatures that dipped below zero, people of all backgrounds traveled mostly by motorbike to reach the Bahai Center in central Kathmandu.

This year’s celebration, the first to be held in Nepal, emphasized the need for religion to promote love and unity.

The annual celebration was inaugurated by the Bahai community in the US 65 years ago.

Religious leaders and faithful urged each other to be vigilant against fundamentalist threats and to maintain exemplary good will towards practitioners of other faiths in Nepal and to resist claims that one religion was better than any other.

Christian pastor Kali Bahadur Rokkaya, a member of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission, said religious leaders must do more to ensure peace.

“We the religious leaders have to speak up and guide and warn political leaders, but we have failed to do so,” he said.

“We should feel confident, as we are above political leaders [and] by keeping silent or busy only inside our temples, mosques, monasteries or churches we will be encouraging thieves to pretend to rule the country.”

He also called for prayers for Bahais, calling them a persecuted minority in areas across the world.

Celebrations included dances, sketches and songs portraying interfaith and inter-ethnic cooperation among young people.

“We [Bahais] are seven to nine thousand in Nepal. Apart from holding regular meetings we are now expanding our teachers training program outside central Kathmandu,” said Larry Robertson, head of the Bahai community in Nepal.

He added that the group has faced difficulties, particularly regarding a burial plot outside the capital, where rapid expansion has led to protests by local residents over the burial of the dead.

Nazrul Hussein, president of the Nepal Muslim Society, added his warning to the assembly of religious leaders.

“There have been calls to install closed circuit surveillance cameras on all churches and mosques. Why single us minorities out?” he asked.

The World Religion Day celebration coincided with a nationwide holiday marking the first day of the holy month of Magh.

Despite traditionally being one of the coldest days of the year, the beginning of Magh also marks the transition to warmer weather and, symbolically, a brighter, more peaceful year.

– ucan

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