October 28, 2008 / 3:03 PM / 10 years ago

Vatican invokes Gandhi in plea to end Orissa violence

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican invoked the memory of Mahatma Gandhi in an appeal on Tuesday for an end to religious violence in Orissa after anti-Christian riots killed at least 35 people.

A general view of St. Peter square at the Vatican October 12, 2008. The Vatican invoked the memory of Mahatma Gandhi in an appeal on Tuesday for an end to religious violence in Orissa after anti-Christian riots killed at least 35 people. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files

On Sunday, Pope Benedict had called for governments to protect Christian minorities in India and Iraq.

In a written address to Hindus, the Vatican office in charge of relations with other religions said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers.

The Vatican pointed to Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as the Mahatma or “Great Soul”, as a global icon of non-violence.

“During the course of (Gandhi’s) struggle for freedom, he realised that ‘an eye for a eye, and soon the whole world is blind,’” Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said in the address.

“He is a model for non-violence and he led by example to the point of laying down his life because of his refusal to engage in violence.”

Gandhi was shot dead in 1948.

Christians, who make up just over 2 percent of India’s billion-plus population, have come under fresh attack amid long-running tensions over religious conversions.

The murder of a Hindu leader in Orissa in August sparked some of the worst anti-Christian riots in decades, killing dozens of people and damaging dozens of churches.

Many more have died in Muslim-Hindu riots in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

“While religions are often blamed for society’s ills, we know that it is rather the manipulation of religion, contrary to its fundamental beliefs, that is used to carry out so many forms of violence,” the address said.

“As religious leaders called to uphold the truth found in our respective religions, let us help foster non-violence among our followers and support it in their actions.”

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