The Vatican has sent a message urging cooperation between Christians and Hindus in anticipation of their celebration of Diwali on 9 November. Shared by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs across the world as the 'Festival of Light,' Diwali marks the triumph of life over death.
In particular, Diwali lamps signify light transcending darkness and the victory of good over the evil within the heart. In North India the festival is colloquially called Divali, in South India Deepavali.
The message from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue is entitled, 'Christians and Hindus: Determined to Walk the Path of Dialogue'.
"Sensitive to your religious feelings and respectful of your ancient religious tradition," the cardinal writes, "I sincerely hope that your search for the Divine, symbolized through the celebration of Diwali, will help you to overcome darkness with light, untruth with truth, and evil with goodness."
"The world around us is yearning for peace. Religions promise peace because they trace their origin to God who, according to Christian belief, is our peace. Can we, as believers of different religious traditions, not work together to receive God's gift of peace and to spread it around us so that the world becomes for all people a better place to live? Our respective communities must pay urgent attention to the education of believers, who can so easily be misled by deceitful and false propaganda."
"Belief and freedom always go together," continued the cardinal. "There can be no coercion in religion: no one can be forced to believe, neither can anyone who wishes to believe be prevented from doing so. (...) The Catholic Church has been faithful to this teaching as Pope Benedict XVI recently reminded the Ambassadors of India and other countries to the Holy See: 'Peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of conscience of individuals and of the freedom of peoples.'"
"Forming believers first of all to discover the full dimensions and depth of their own religion, and then encouraging them to know other believers as well constitutes an important challenge for religious communities committed to building world peace. Let us not forget that ignorance is the first and, perhaps, the principal enemy in the life of believers."
"Like all human relationships, those between people of different religions need to be nourished by regular meetings, patient listening, collaborative action, and above all, by an attitude of mutual respect. Accordingly, we must work to build bonds of friendship."
He concludes: "In situations of misunderstanding, people need to come together and communicate with one another, in order to clarify, in a fraternal and friendly spirit, their respective beliefs, aspirations and convictions. Only through dialogue, avoiding all forms of prejudice and stereo-typed ideas about others and by faithful witness to our religious precepts and teaching, can we truly overcome conflicts. Dialogue between followers of different religions is the necessary path today, indeed it is the only appropriate path for us as believers."