by Joseph Dias-General Secretary, Catholic Secular Forum, Mumbai
- India's Only 28th Annual Good Friday Dramatization on Mumbai's Streets; Walk and Street Drama with Crucifixion at St. Charles Convent, Vakola, Mumbai at 2.00 pm on Good Friday, 3 April 2015
Mumbai: Thousands of Christians will trudge a grueling and arduous walk, over kilometers in scorching heat, starting out from Sacred Heart Church in suburban Mumbai's Khar West, while a troupe will enact scenes, believed to have happened on the first Good Friday. The walking pilgrimage will start in the morning at around 10.30 am and conclude in the evening at around 4 pm. The procession with various tableau will wend its way through the lanes of Mumbai's Khar, Santacruz, Vakola and Kalina in the suburbs. The crucifixion dramatization near St. Anthony's Church, Vakola, moves many to tears, even as some stand bare feet at the end of a fulfilling spiritual experience of 40 days of prayer, fasting, abstinence and repentance.
The procession in its 28th year, draws Christians from all over the city, with even children, women, priests and nuns joining in to partake in portrayal of the torture and death of Jesus Christ, enacted through a musical played out on the streets. The faithful pray and mourn for the intention of the day - Christians denied freedom of faith and religious liberty.
Speaking on the 2015 theme, Joseph Dias, who started this tradition 27 years ago, which has not found a parallel in the country said, "The intention this year "Persecution in India & Praying for the Government to Act" in addition to persecution around the world. Even though the community contributes majorly towards ameliorating the lot of the poor and needy, the government apathy towards Indian Christians is taking its toll, even as communal elements target us. A Christian way to deal with the issue is to first solemnly fast and intercede with God, which is what we are doing today. Jesus told us to pray for our persecutors and this is a public display of our hurt sentiments and a cry for justice.The community, being ignored is determined not to take it lying down".
Thousands of passer-byes will witness the Calvary (place where Jesus was crucified) story, with biblical characters acting out the arrest and the last few hours before Jesus death. Similar enactments are known to happen in the Philippines and Latin America, with a couple of Christians actually being nailed to a cross, to experience in a small way the suffering of Jesus on the first Good Friday. In India though, Joseph Dias, who is the general secretary of The CSF, pointed out that it is the only one of its kind and was also started since many non-Christians believed that Good Friday is a feast, rather than a day of mourning. He pointed out that "while fundamentalists of various hues and colours are persecuting Christians, the inaction and official neglect by the government is appalling; as Christians have their human rights violated and are not given their due. But, the example of Jesus and Christianity commands us not to retaliate, but express ourselves in a non-violent manner. As a micro minority, with minuscule numbers to be politically influential; the government seems to take us for granted. This march signals the heralding of Christians as politically active citizens".
The pilgrims will look forward to a new hope, that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday brings, which will also be enacted, near St. Charles Convent, Vakola. The Stations of the Cross, as the devotion is called will stop still at 3 pm, believed to be the time, when Jesus died or the moment of grace to pray for the intentions and the theme.The focus will also be on Christians activists in various parts of the country, who are victims of police atrocities and Christians undergoing severe persecution from fundamentalists and anti-national forces. Other forms of discrimination faced by the community mentioned were those of political alienation, bureaucratic victimization, Dalit Christians, anti-conversion laws, targeted violence, economic deprivation, social boycott, etc.
The 15 Stations of the Cross enacted will be sequences such as - the arrest of Jesus, Jesus being sentenced by Pontius Pilate, the falls of Jesus, Jesus meeting the women of Jerusalem, his mother and disciples at the cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus... This, many community members feel is a dignified Christian way protesting against the subtle and not so subtle attacks on the community.