MESSAGE OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
Collaboration between Hindus and Christians with special regard to Children
Dear Hindu friends,
1. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the oldest and most important feasts which you celebrate in your religious tradition. During these festive days you recall the victory of good over evil. This is symbolized when your homes are lit up by lamps to chase away the darkness of the night. Renewed hope can be seen on many faces; there are signs of great joy in the hearts of many Hindus; and in those who have been weighed down by the preoccupations and worries of daily life there is a renewed determination to begin afresh. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, entrusted by His Holiness Pope John Paul II with the task of promoting harmonious and friendly relations with people of all religions, I wish you happy Diwali.
2. In all religions, the ones who particularly long to see feast days arrive are the little children. Their enthusiasm for taking part in the celebration of a feast is truly striking. It is they who bring boundless joy to the celebration because they enliven the spirit of the adults. Children bring shape and colour, taste and flavour, inspiration and aspiration, hope and promise of perseverance to the celebration. Indeed no celebration truly deserves this name unless a central place is given to children, the more so since the festive spirit requires everyone to acquire a childlike heart. Is this not true also of the festival of Diwali?
3. During this year’s celebration of Diwali, my thoughts turn to children, for whom Jesus had a particular love because of "their simplicity, their joy of life, their spontaneity, and their faith filled with wonder" as the Holy Father reminds us (Angelus Message, 18 December 1994). One day when his disciples were discussing who was the greatest, Jesus called to himself a child and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Gospel of Matthew, 18:3-6).
4. You will agree with me in recognizing that one of the purposes of religious feasts is to make us better human persons. During this season of Diwali, as you strive to overcome darkness through light, evil through goodness and hatred through love, I would like to propose to you, as one of your Christian friends, that we focus our attention on the evils in our society that afflict children: forced labour, forced conscription, breakdown of the family, trafficking in organs and persons, sexual abuse, forced prostitution, AIDS, the sale and use of drugs, etc. What have children done to merit such suffering? Could not the dialogue between Hindus and Christians take concrete form by working together in support of underprivileged children, who are often the innocent victims of war and violence, inadequate food and water, forced immigration and the many forms of injustice present in today’s world? I am fully aware that such cooperation between the followers of our two religious traditions already exists, but we could and should do more, as the problem is serious, indeed it is tragic. Your suggestions as to what could be done to give children their rightful place in society would be most welcome. Our children are our future; they are the future of humanity.
5. Dear Hindu friends, the celebration of Diwali is inconceivable for you without the joy brought to it by children. Could you not give added meaning to this year’s Diwali by highlighting the plight of children, in your own neighbourhood, in your town, in society in general and, more broadly, throughout the whole world? Imagining myself surrounded by these children, I wish you again: Happy Deepavali!
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald,