Goan village hands out lessons in harmonyOctober 8th, 2008 - 3:17 pm ICT by IANS
Loliem (Goa), Oct 8 (IANS) As Karnataka grapples with communal violence, it needs only to look at a tiny village five kilometres from its border for a way out — where the widening rift between Hindus and Christians in parts of the country has actually led to closer bonds. Hindus and Christians in south Goa’s Loliem village have come together to clear the local Hindu crematorium, which had been littered with debris and overgrown shrubs over the years.
“We had come here Sunday to cremate a friend’s elderly relative, when we saw the kind of neglect the crematorium was in. We thought we’d pool in resources and do something about it,” Elvis Fernandes told IANS.
Elvis then led a 25 strong batch of youngsters, which included village headman Ashutosh Bandekar and his deputy Xavier, and manually cleaned the crematorium.
When a local politician learned about what they were attempting, he suggested using manual labour, but they turned down his advice.
“We are a small united community. In face of what’s happening across the border in Karnataka, we felt that we must forge a stronger bond between both communities,” said Peter Fernandes, another volunteer.
This inspired band of boys who then went on to uproot thorny shrubs from the cremation area, which has been without a caretaker for several years. They also levelled the ground to make it easier for funeral processions.
“We made arrangements for stacks of firewood, which used to lie scattered,” Elvis said.
“We are actually shocked to hear what’s happening in Karnataka. In Loliem, we can’t even imagine such violence. Here, a nun is venerated by both communities and so is a Hindu priest. There is no event where people from both communities do not participate with gusto. Even the ’sarvajanik Ganeshotsava’ (the community Ganesh festival) is celebrated by both Hindus and Christians together,” Elvis claimed.
The story of harmony in Loliem, which has a population of approximately 7,000 and is a virtual stone’s throw from the border separating Goa and northern Karnataka, comes at a time when Christians and churches are being targeted not just in Karnataka but in other states as well.
The issue, which has gained global notoriety, started with the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader in Orissa in August. Since then, escalating violence against the community has seen thousands of Christians becoming homeless, scores killed and many churches burnt and vandalised.