On Christmas, everyone prayed for peace in Valley
25 December 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: There was no Santa donning white beard and red clothes but it was a Christmas with a difference at the Holy Family Catholic Church at the famous Moulana Azad Road in Srinagar. Although there was no snow to bring cheer to the people who had come to participate in the mass prayer, but the sunny sunshine in the Valley was enough to generate interest among the attendants both Muslims and Christians who prayed for the return of peace in the Valley. 'I have received many letters which asked me to pray for peace in the region on the Christmas Eve. In our holy mass today every one prayed for peace and tranquility in Kashmir,' said Father Johnson, Chief Priest at Holy Family Catholic Church said. 'Hundreds of people, irrespective of faith and gender poured in and joined the prayer meeting at the church,' he added. The scene at the holy Catholic Church today was that of a celebration. Not only did the members of the Christian community participate in the mass prayers, but many young Muslim faces too were part of the crowd. ' I am here to pray for peace,' said Saira, a resident of Srinagar. She was among the first visitors who came to the church today. ' I come here quite often because I wish to know about other religions,' she added. Idris Ahmed, a student and resident of Batwara area of Srinagar too was among the first visitors to the church. 'Every religion preaches peace. I came here and was glad to know that Christians like Muslims too are a tolerant people,' added Idris.' By coming to this place I also wanted to tell my Christian brothers that we care for them because despite the fact that the valley is witnessing a turbulent phase they stayed back and faced the situation with us,' added Idris. Idris friend Altaf, an undergraduate student who had come to attend the mass prayer for the first time did not wish to be left behind.'On this Christmas I wish to convey a message,' he said. 'We have come here to join the peace prayers and celebrate the Christmas with our Christian brethren. We joined the celebrations because we want to convey to the world that despite violence becoming part of our lives, Kashmiris are very tolerant people,' he remarked. Apart from the locals some foreigners too came to attend the prayers at the Catholic Church. 'Peace is the greatest gift of God and that is why I came here and prayed for peace in Kashmir,' said Gary Smith, a businessman from England, who has come to Kashmir for the first time. Gary was happy to be part of the prayer that asked for restoration of peace in Kashmir.