Christians in India cutting across all denominations on Sunday observed Martyrs' Day—the anniversary of the assassination of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi—with nationwide fasting and prayers for the unity and progress of the country.
The 102-year-old All India Catholic Union’s call for a day of fasting and prayers on January 30 was endorsed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Churches in India, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India. These three organisations represent the Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Independent churches that minister to the Christian community which numbers 2.3 per cent of the population of India.
The fasting prayers were organised in thousands of places in the country, covering every state and Union Territory.
In Delhi, Auxiliary Bishop of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Deepak Valerian Tauro, CBCI Deputy Secretary General Jervis D’Souza, AICU Secretary General A Chinnappan, AICU National Coordinator A C Michael participated.
The community is as old as the religion, and historically traces its roots to the arrival in Kerala and Tamil Nadu of Apostle Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, in the first century of the Christian era. The community’s role in education, health and the empowerment of women, Dalits and Adivasis, is universally acknowledged.
The Martyr’s Day observance was without speeches, slogans on political signage. During the silent observance, banners focussed on two messages. The first reminded that the Christian community is, and has always been, peaceful and peace-loving. The second said in clear terms that the Church does not believe in religious conversions by fraud or force.
The community recalls that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who Indians lovingly call Bapu and everyone in the world knows as Mahatma Gandhi, is one of the greatest moral forces the modern world has seen. His peaceful resistance led to the Independence of India. In the second half of the Twentieth century, it became the example with which people in Africa, Asia and Latin America shed the yoke of European colonialism.
He single-handedly intervened when during Partition, two communities clashed in 1947. Unarmed, and using the powerful instrument of fasting and prayer, he challenged and quietened people who wanted to kill each other. "My life is my Message,” he had said. His message of non-violence has become immortal.
His assassination on January 30, 1948 was an attempt to kill this message — the gift of communal harmony and coexistence of many religious groups who wanted to live together as they had lived in India since the time of St Thomas. The assassins failed to kill Gandhi’s ideas and his legacy.
On Martyrs Day, the community solely affirmed its solidarity with people world-wide who love freedom, democracy, equality, and peaceful co-existence. Without these, peace and development are difficult not just in India but everywhere in the world. This is the message and resolve the community brought to its countrymen in prayers wherever the community lived in India.