Indian bishop encourages celebration of color festival in joy, freedom

Antonio Anup Gonsalves. .- With Indians and Hindus celebrating Holi, a spring festival of colors, today, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona has encouraged the faithful to participate in the celebration, which is meant to promote spiritual and social harmony.

Holi is a traditionally Hindu holiday that is celebrated culturally among many Indians, including some Christians and Muslims, and which is linked to the full moon. It falls March 6 this year, and is celebrated with everyone throwing brightly dyed powders on each other. It marks the setting aside of differences and grudges in a spirit of reconciliation.

Observing the collective celebratory spirit of Holi which integrates joy, enthusiasm and freedom, Bishop Dabre said the day “gives a message of joy and happiness.”

“It seems to teach us that religion must bring joy and happiness to people,” he told CNA March 6.

Nevertheless, Bishop Dabre cautioned that “Holi must live the holy joy, and the joy a religion should spread is not without norms or principles, but must be coupled with the observance of commandments.”

“The true joy that emanates from religion must respect the freedom of others; not impose our likes and dislikes on others,” he reflected.

Hindus begin the celebration with a Holika bonfire the evening prior to Holi, which relates to the myth upon which the festival is based. However, the throwing of color and water which all Indians participate in is a manifestation of joy and friendship across religious lines.

Bishop Dabre also noted that “religion must be experienced as a liberating experience of freedom, and this is very significant in the context of religious terrorism and extremism in different parts of the world, and in India.”

He lamented the rise of such groups as the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Islamic State, saying that in these cases, “religion has become a cause of fear, terror, injustice and oppression.”

In the light of recent persecution and discrimination against Christians in India, Bishop Dabre lamented that “even in our country, in the name of religion unreasonable restriction are imposed on the people;  force and pressure is employed to reconvert people and to ban the adoption of a religion of one’s choice … also gruesome crimes are committed against women and people of the so-called low caste. Thus religion has become a matter of grievous concern.”

However, “in such a situation Holi gives an important lesson that religion must spread true joy and freedom,” he added.

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