By Matters India Reporter
Vechoor: For a change, a Catholic priest in Kerala chose a mosque to deliver his sermon.
Father Joseph (Sanu) Puthussery on August 31 visited the Juma Masjid at Vechoor in Kottayam district during Jum’ah (Friday prayers) and delivered a thanksgiving speech at the masjid prayer hall.
The Muslims had fed the flood victims who had taken shelter at his church that comes under Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.
St Antony’s Church at Achinakom in Kottayam district had sheltered more than 580 people rendered homeless by unprecedented floods that affected 12 of Kerala’s 14 districts mid August. The church authorities had faced shortage of food and water to feed them.
“I straightaway went to the masjid, appraised the Maulavi about our difficulty and requested his help. After the day’s prayers, Muslim brothers came to the church with a large quantity of food and water as per his direction,” Fr Puthussery told media persons.
The Muslim supplied essential articles to the relief camp at the church for several days. Besides food and water, essential medicines were also brought by the youths attached to the Masjid, Father Puthussery said.
The mosque authorities have reportedly showcased a rare model of togetherness in the post-flood Kerala, by offering a Christian priest the same platform a ‘Maulavi’ (Muslim cleric) uses to address his people.
Father Puthussery said he has no words to express his gratitude for the Muslim brethren for the “much needed help and support they had extended during the time of difficulties.”
He said he went to the masjid to meet the Maulavi and other authorities to thank them personally. “But they invited me to their prayer hall and offered me their platform to speak. It was a rare gesture of togetherness,” the Catholic priest said.
Niyaz Nasser, one of the more than 250 Muslims at the mosque for the Friday prayers, said they had a different and moving experience.
“It was the moment of great joy and pride that gave hope for a bright future,” Nasser wrote in a WhatsApp message.
He said they were surprised when the maulavi suddenly ended his usually long Friday talk. “As we wondered about the reason, a Christian priest shocked us by entering the hall,” he added.
The Catholic priest, who spoke for ten minutes, said although the floods snatched away many valuables from people, it also washed away many social ills.
“We have just witnessed a historical deluge. It has robbed us of many things, but what it has removed mainly are walls that separated us, the pride in our hearts. It has taken from us the sense of self-sufficiency.”
The Catholic priest told the Muslim congregation about Pope Francis’ call to build bridges, not walls. “The devastating floods have now given us an opportunity to destroy the walls and build the bridges of togetherness,” he added.
The priest had begun his talk by saying it was the first time he had entered a Muslim mosque and “I am happy and proud.”
He stressed the need for continuing the interfaith collaboration to foster harmony in society. “This bond should not end with a deluge. We should pass the values we rediscovered through this calamity to the next generation.”
Nasser said he found it difficult to describe the emotions that swelled in the Friday congregation listening to the Catholic priest’s words.