Christmas spirit at inter-faith peace rally in Rajasthan city

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A peace rally established by a church group eight years ago has become an annual event involving major religions in the Indian city of Udaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Some 10,000 people — Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs — joined the eight kilometer walk through the city streets on Dec. 19.

"Jesus Christ is beyond religion, and he came to the world to bring peace. That is the reason this peace rally is conducted just before Christmas," said Father Norbert Herman, director of Maitri Sadan (Friendship Home) who first organized the rally.

Camel carts depicting nativity scenes and other stories of Christ's birth were a part of the rally, as were environmental or pro-life themes from some of the 20 schools that joined the event.

Chandra Singh Kothari, city mayor and chief guest of the program, said that "peace is the need of the hour in this tumultuous time and Jesus came to bring peace and joy in the world."

Bishop Devaprasad Ganawa of Udaipur and leaders of other religions gave messages of unity, peace and joy.

William D'Souza, principal of St. Anthony's School in Udaipur and one of the participants in the rally, said it felt good that festival brought people from all religions together.

"The rally is a joint effort by all that has set an example of love and brotherhood among all communities," said D'Souza.

The diocesan area has some 8 million people but Catholics are only some 25,000 in the Hindu dominate area. Christians are a tiny minority in the state of 84 million people, 89 percent of them Hindus.

But events such the peace rally "prove to be beneficial for all," said Sandeep Singhatwadia, president of the Sarv Dharam Maitri Sangh, an inter-faith forum.

"All religions teach peace, love and brotherhood. Only the presentation is different," he said adding that the rally helped build a new generation convinced of the need for religious amity.

Muslim leader Mushtaq Chanchal and a rally participant, told that people are always very enthusiastic about the event each year. "Such programs have a very positive impact on the society and need to be carried out at a larger scale," he added.

Christmas spirit at inter-faith peace rally in Rajasthan city

School children dressed as Catholic nuns joined Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs for a peace rally that has now become an annul Christmas event in Udaipur, a Hindu majority city in western India. Some 10,000 people joined this year's rally Dec. 19. (Photo courtesy of Father Norbert Herman)

Umar Shah, Srinagar - India (Dec. 23, 2016)