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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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Indian Catholic Nuns Call Out For Justice In Kerala

The protest, now in its sixth day in Kochi, Kerala's financial hub, is gathering momentum as the locals, activists, writers and politicians come out in support.

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Nuns hold placards during a protest demanding justice after an alleged sexual assault of a nun by a bishop in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala, India. VOA

A group of Indian Catholic nuns are staging a rare street protest in the southern state of Kerala demanding justice after an alleged sexual assault of a nun by a bishop.

Police have called the bishop named in the complaint for a second round of questioning next week. The bishop has denied wrongdoing.

The case comes at a time when the Christian community, which accounts for 19 percent of the state’s population, is reeling under an erosion of trust as sexual abuse cases involving the clergy pile up.

Five priests were arrested last month in two different sexual assault cases, while last year, a Catholic priest who was trying to flee the country was arrested after a minor he is accused of having sex with gave birth.

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The nun in a letter said she wanted the Vatican to intervene. She said she was forced to make matters public after several attempts to seek justice from within the church failed.

The protest, now in its sixth day in Kochi, Kerala’s financial hub, is gathering momentum as the locals, activists, writers and politicians come out in support.

A man, who is on an indefinite hunger strike, lay in front of the stage where the protesting nuns sat. A nun coordinating the protest dismissed allegations that they were trying to disgrace the church.

“Our fight is for the truth. We will not back out unless the truth is established and the nun is given justice,” she told Reuters.

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The Catholic Church in Germany acknowledged a “depressing and shameful” legacy of sexual abuse on Wednesday after a leaked study said clerics had abused thousands of children over 70 years.

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The leaked study was published on the day that Pope Francis, who has made several attempts to tackle a spreading sexual abuse crisis that has badly tarnished the Church’s image worldwide, summoned senior bishops from around the world to the Vatican to discuss the protection of minors. (VOA)