ASIA/INDIA - New direction in Gujarat: Good Friday restored as a public holiday

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Ahmedabad (Fides Service) - Catholics in the west Indian state of Gujarat are happy that Good Friday has been declared once again a public holiday this year. Last year it was removed from the list of public state holidays in Gujarat.
Gujarat is governed by the Hindu nationalist party Baratiya Janata Party (BJP) which in the past encouraged the spread of Hindu fundamentalism also exploiting ethnic, social and religious tension. On February 1, 2005 the local BJP government issued an order that Good Friday will be among the state public holidays this year, a decision welcomed by the entire Christian community at state and federal level, Samson Christian of the All India Christian Council (AICC) told Fides
Good Friday was removed from the list of Gujarat state public holidays last year and the All India Christian Council took the question to the state high court. “Our efforts were rewarded. Let’s hope the government will maintain this position”, said AICC.
For Christians the world over Good Friday is the day for the commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, a day of prayer and fasting and adoration of the symbol of the Cross, instrument of redemption.
In recent years five states in India, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab Bihar and Gujarat scrapped Good Friday as a public holiday. On March 1 2004, at the request of the local Christian community and following peaceful protests and demonstrations on the part of anxious Christians, Karnataka put Good Friday back on the list of public holidays.
In 2003 after the Catholic Archbishop of Patna, Archbishop Benedict John Osta Santo made a special request to the state authorities, Bihar state made Good Friday an annual public holiday.
With regard to annual public holidays, many of which are held on moveable dates, he Federal government of India includes Good Friday among the recommended public holidays all over the country. However each state then draws up its own annual list of public holidays, some religious some not.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/02/2005 Righe: 37 Parole: 369)