This Sunday was a very memorable Palm Sunday for me.  With about 200 villagers and 5 other Jesuits we processed from the recently built Health Centre (funded by a Spanish Jesuit University) to the small chapel in Pannur.  Waving Palms and singing Hosanna in the local Kannada language – dodging buffalos, and passing Hindu Shrines and small Muslim mosques, we were greeted by the smiles and waves of many of the non-Christian villages.  With the beautiful vibrant colours of the women’s sari’s, the bells and drums of the choir, and the sights and sound of Indian rural life this palm Sunday will live long in my memory!  Because of the great work of the Jesuits and the local Christians in this community, building the schools, hospital and recently many new houses after devastating floods, inter-religious relations are very good.  It is in inspiring to see how so many villagers consider the priests to be ‘their priests’ regardless of religion, and how so many of the local services provided by the Christian community are shared with all regardless of faith.  This service of  and for the common good, and the harmony and respect engendered, may  be a model for all ‘missions’.  I have put a small video clip below of the parade (only mobile quality I am afraid….)

Sadly this inter-religious harmony is not present everywhere in India. Sitting next to me at mass was a priest who recently had a harrowing experience in another part of Karnataka State.  He was seized by a group of nationalists in Anekal, near Bangalore and marched down to the police station by a mob.   His crime was not raising the flag on Independence Day. Others suspect that the real ‘crime’ maybe that he was the director of the Jesuit school in Anekal – which favours intake from the poorest Dalit community.  Some of his students were beaten up when they came to defend him.  His ordeal made some international websites at the time click here. Whilst the long Gospel passage was being read of Jesus’ arrest and trial, I was thinking that persecution for many Christians is still a terrible reality, in fact sitting in the seat next  to me.