How Christians in remote India came together to celebrate Christmas

Interdenominational prayer for unity during Christmas fellowship at Neotan in Miao diocese Dec 26 2015 Credit Fr Felix Anthony CNA 1 14 16 An ecumenical Christmas fellowship at Sacred Heart parish in Neotan, Arunachal Pradesh, India, Dec. 26, 2015. | Fr. Felix Anthony.

In the remote foothills of India's Patkai-Bum mountains, a Catholic parish joined Christians of various denominations to share the joy of Christmas and forge friendships to serve a common vision of harmony and peace.

"Christmas is an event of joy and unity and we must strive to live it," Father Felix Anthony, head of communications for Diocese of Miao, told CNA Jan 10.

"The aim of this fellowship is to foster stronger bonds of friendship and find common grounds of working for harmony, peace and development in the society," he said.

Fr. Anthony welcomed the guests Dec. 26 at Sacred Heart parish in Neotan village of Changlang district. He stressed the need for unity, mutual respect and dialogue to share the vision of building peace and harmony.

Chikim Kimsing, representing Heva Baptist Christian Association, led the opening prayer for Christian unity.

The youth choir of the parish sang Christmas carols.

The parish in the Miao diocese mainly serves members of the Tangsa tribe, who inhabit the mountainous forest terrains of India's northeastern region of Arunachal Pradesh.

Fr. Anthony said the Second Vatican Council opened up doors and underlined the importance of ecumenical dialogue as a mission of the Church.

The priest also cited Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, which emphasized that which unites Christians. "If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another!" the Pope wrote. "It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us."

Fr. Anthony reflected that "The commitment to Christian unity is also based on deepening our faith, reaching out and praying together, and we must strive to celebrate this unity every year."

Tukul Mossang, who attends Tangsa Baptist Church in Neotan, expressed his happiness that people came together to celebrate the birth of Christ.

A common Christian witness is particularly important in India, where Christians are fewer than three percent of the population. Nearly 80 percent of Indians are Hindu, and targeted attacks on Christians (and Muslims) occur on a regular basis in the country, as some radical Hindus see Islam and Christianity as a threat. Physical violence, sexual assault, discrimination, and threats are often faced by Christians, and the incidents are sometimes unrepoted due to fear and local political pressure.

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