Kanpur:- The Kanpur Catholic Association (KCA) organised its annual Christmas Milan and Inter-Religious Prayer for Peace on 20th December at St Xavier's School Hall here. This Milan has become a unique feature of the life of the city, where religious leaders gather together to strengthen the bonds of unity and peace. Over 300 citizens attended the Milan.
Sri Noel George, Convenor of the Milan, welcomed Bishop Isidore Fernandes of Allahabad, and the local MLA, Sri Sanjeev Dariyabadi. They lit the Peace Lamp together with leaders of the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, Bahai and Protestant communities. KCA President, Chhotebhai Noronha, said that usually people celebrated their own festivals among themselves; but the KCA had initiated this move a few years ago to celebrate festivals together. He said that Mahatma Gandhi was a role model for combining spiritual strength with social activism.
B. P Fernandes appreciated the KCA's efforts in promoting inter-religious dialogue. In his Christmas message he said that we should be like the fabled Fourth Magi, who did not meet Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem, but nevertheless met him at every stage in the person of the poor and needy. Sri Dariyabadi, a Congress MLA with a clean image, felt that the people of Kanpur had rejected those forces that sought to divide society on the basis of religion and caste. He exhorted the citizens to be a shining example of national integration and communal harmony to the country.
A highlight of the Milan was the singing of Vande Matram by six Muslim sisters, led by Advocate Naz Madni, which evoked a standing ovation. Manoj Sengar of the Vishwa Gayatri Parivar, Mohd Sulaiman of the Islamic Movement, Sardar Harvinder Singh Lard of the Guru Singh Sabha, Dhanirao Bodh of the Dalit Panthers, Archana Behenji of the Brahma Kumaris, Pawan Jain of the Jain Yuva Sangathan, Ashok Singh Patel of the Bahai Spiritual Assembly, Jimmy Patel of the Parsi Anjuman and Rev HL Khoji of the Shalom Church, prayed for peace according to their own religious persuasions.
Another important part of the Milan was the presentation of the Peace Awards 2009 to freedom fighter Sarvesh Pande, social worker Manju Bhatia, secular activist Naz Madni and religious sisters Celestine CJ of St Mary's Convent and Nirupa UMI of Mariampur School, for work among the poor.
Rev Rolphie D'souza of St Thomas' Church led the group in the recitation of the Peace Pledge. Earlier Rev Alex D'souza, the host, said the opening prayer and Maggie Vaid read the gospel infancy narrative. Five different choirs sang melodious Christmas carols. KCA members Angelo Menezes, Anjali Malhotra, Cornelius Kujur, Maria and Manoj Malhotra, Sophie Thomas, Ajay Benedict, Avinash Noronha, Sanjay Khanna, Elizabeth Cornelius and Brian Thomson worked very hard for the success of the Milan, which ended with the serving of cake and coffee.