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Catholics and Hindus share church in Trinidad and Tobago on Good Friday

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Picture credit: Dr Kumar Mahabir
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By Yajush Gupta

An interesting phenomenon of religious intersection occurring only in Trinidad & Tobago.

On Good Friday, Roman Catholics share their church with thousands of Hindus who pay homage to the dark-skinned wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, who Hindus worship as Mother Kali.

  • Trinidad is the largest island in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, off Venezuela’s coast in the southern Caribbean.
  • According to the 2011 population census report, Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious group (22%) in the multi-ethnic society. Hindus constitute the second largest (18%) in a population of 1.3 million persons.
  • On last Good Friday, hundreds headed to Siparia for the Feast of Soparee Mai, an annual Good Friday celebration involving both Roman Catholics and Hindus.

Anthropologist Dr Kumar Mahabir recently presented a research paper on this phenomenon that has been taking place every Good Friday for over 140 years in the Roman Catholic church in Siparia in South Trinidad. Mahabir’s paper was entitled “Virgin Mary as Mother Kali: The Intersections between the Hindu Mother Kali and the Black Madonnas in Catholic Churches in Trinidad and Beyond”.

The paper was presented at an international conference themed “Turning Tides: Caribbean Intersections in the Americas and Beyond.” The conference was held on February 18 to 20 at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine. It was organised by The UWI and Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Dr Mahabir notes in an article that appeared in a news paper at in Trinidad and Tobago: “For the past decade, there has been the appearance of a poojari of the Kali-Mai Hindu sect in the church grounds. He collects donations from worshippers for the intent purpose of doing ceremonial worship for the protection of his village from sickness and natural disasters.”

He adds: “The figure of this poojari (Hindu priest), dark-skinned and dressed in white, jharying (stroking) with knife and neem branch those who seek his blessings, substantiates the conception that Hindus perceive this Divine Shepherdess to be Mother Kali.”

Report prepared by Yajush Gupta. Twitter :@yajush_gupta

 

 

 

 

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Pope Urges End to Carnage in Syria, Calls for Reconciliation in Middle East

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Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Apr. 1, 2018. VOA

In his Easter message, Pope Francis called for peace in a world marked by war and conflict. Addressing tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square from the central balcony of the basilica, the pope called for an end to “carnage” in the long-suffering land of Syria and “reconciliation” in the Middle East.

Francis’ appeal for peace came in his Urbi et Orbi message after having celebrated Easter mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He said the message of the resurrection offers hope in a world “marked by so many acts of injustice and violence”.

The pope begged for peace for “the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war.”

“This Easter,” the pope said, “may the light of the risen Christ illuminate the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage”.

Francis demanded that aid be delivered to the needy in the war-torn country and called for “fitting conditions for the return of the displaced.”

ALSO READ: Pope Visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ

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Pope Francis acknowledges pilgrims while delivering the Urbi et Orbi blessing at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, April 1, 2018. VOA

The pope also urged reconciliation in Israel, a place “experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless.” His words followed the Friday deaths of 15 Palestinian protesters on the Israeli-Gaza border two days before Easter Sunday.

ALSO READ: Bangladesh gets its first Catholic Cardinal: Pope Francis names 17 Archbishops as new Cardinals

Turning his thoughts to Africa, the pope also called for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Let us not forget the victims of that conflict”, the pope said, “especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.”
The world’s first Latin American pope also urged international assistance for Venezuela, so that more people would not have to abandon their homeland because of the economic and political crisis.

Finally, Francis also expressed the hope that the “fruits of dialogue” would advance peace and harmony on the Korean peninsula, where the two sides are set to hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27.

Easter is Christianity’s “moveable feast,” falling on a different date each year. Western Christian churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.

This year, Eastern Orthodox Churches, which include Jewish Passover in their calculation of Easter dates, celebrate the holiday next Sunday, April 8. VOA

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