Christians Pray, Mourn for Victims of Mumbai Attacks

( [email protected] ) Dec 06, 2008 04:51 AM EST

Throughout the week, Christians in Mumbai, India, have been lighting candles and expressing solidarity with the victims of last week's terrorist attacks.

Among the Christian groups reaching out to help the city heal were those at the prominent St. Xavier's college, which held a special memorial prayer service on Thursday.

Father Frazer Mascrenhas, the college head, urged forgiveness for the terrorists and prayed for the victims of the attacks, which were carried out in 10 locations, including two luxury hotels, a restaurant popular with tourists, the main railway station, and a hospital, across India's largest city. A total of 188 people died.

“These people [the victims] were closely related to the college,” Mascrenhas said. “They laid down their lives so that we can live today.”

The memorial prayer service included prayers from weeping students, hymns and a rendition of the patriotic song "Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo" (O! The People of My Motherland!), which left many in tears.

The packed auditorium especially paid tribute to ACP Ashok Kamte, former student at St. Xavier's and one of 14 slain police officers.

Earlier this week, Delhi Archdiocese organized an interreligious prayer program outside its Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi. About 200 Buddhists, Bahai followers, Christians and Muslims attended the program with religious leaders reading from their respective Scriptures and praying for peace and stability.

“No cause, however urgent or great, can explain or excuse such wanton bloodshed of innocents," said Dr. John Dayal, the All India Christian Council (AICC) secretary general. "We pray for peace to the families of the dead and for healing of the injured.

"The common trauma during three days of unfolding tragedy brought various nationalities, communities, and faiths closer together in a shared pain."

Dayal paid tribute to the "brave soldiers, firemen and many unsung civilians who risked their lives so that others could live and the siege of a metropolis could end."

He added, "The AICC expresses the gratitude of the Christian community to Indian civil society, which stood by it even as the civil administration of Orissa and the center failed entirely in August and allowed the violence to continue for three months."

Dayal was referencing the ongoing violence against Christians in Orissa, where attacks by Hindu extremists began in August over the murder of a Hindu nationalist leader despite claims of responsibility by Maoists rebels. The Indian government has been criticized for failing to quell the violence.