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Bell tolls in Srinagar’s oldest church after 5 decades

SRINAGAR: In a lesson on solidarity in the strife-torn Valley of Kashmir, representatives of different religions came together at Srinagar’s oldest Catholic Church to inaugurate a bell, as the original was damaged in an arson attack in 1967.

The 120-year-old church at Maulana Azad Road, established by the British in 1896, was silent for the last 50 years. But on Monday, the new brass bell, weighing 105kg, tolled resoundingly. Christian tradition uses church bells to call worshippers to service during canonical hours.

Besides the parish priest, Fr Roy Mathews, Muslim cleric Haji Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Hindu priest Swami Amratdass Udasin and Sikh Granthi Gyani Saranjeet Singh were present on the occasion. All four are members of Inter-Religious Forum, an organisation meant to promote interfaith understanding.

There are at least 30 Christian families living in Srinagar. Fr Mathews, who officiated the ceremony, said the occasion symbolised the acceptance of different religious views in the valley.

“The Kashmir valley has witnessed several obstacles in last three decades with some vested interests trying to create a wedge between different religions. But Kashmiri composite culture has always steered out overcoming the adversities,” he said.

Haji Malik said, “We decided to come together to participate in the bell ringing to clear misconceptions that Kashmiris are intolerant of other faiths. The Kashmiri majority believes that Islam does not teach attacking or browbeating the people of other religions.”

There are six churches in the valley, out of which only three – two Catholic and one Protestant – are functional. Pastor M C Khanna of Sonwar church in Srinagar’s outskirts was arrested in November 2011 after allegations of conversion surfaced against him. He was later released and acquitted of all charges.

Christians, who are a minority in the valley, have often been concerned about their safety, as highlighted in a report by a four-member team headed by Dr Sangliana, vice chairman of National Commission for minority. But residents feel the ‘spirit of Kashmiriyat’ still runs deep in the valley.

Parishioner Sydney Rath, who has been attending the masses at the Srinagar church for several years, said, “The church was completely renovated after it got damaged in 2014 floods, but the bell had always been missing. The installation of the church bell is a step in the right direction.”

Talking about the spirit of brotherhood in the valley, Rath said over the years different communities have worked together to uplift the region. “Christians have contributed to healthcare and education. We have opened main missionary schools in Srinagar. The Rainawari hospital, which is now called Jawaharlal Hospital was also built by Christians,” he said.

Source : timesofindia

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Bell tolls in Srinagar’s oldest church after 5 decades


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