Choir members from the Holy Family Catholic Church of Srinagar in northern Jammu and Kashmir sing Christmas carols. (Photo by Umer Asif)
The parish was closed last Christmas, after devastating floods hit the state in September 2014, killing over 300 people, and causing extensive damage to the church.
Choirs comprising eight to 10 children have been practicing before Christmas and are now visiting homes for singing carols.
Maryam Shammi, a parishioner and choir member, said it excites her to invite Muslim friends for Christmas celebrations. She says it’s also exciting to invite them to her home for Christmas lunch, an event her family was forced to skip last year due to floods.
“This year, I will invite all my friends and we will spend Christmas together,” she told ucanews.com.
There are just 650 Christians living in India’s only Muslim-majority state. As the Christian community is least talked about and remains generally away from the public gaze, Christmas celebrations present a good opportunity to practice interreligious harmony.
Muslim neighbors typically participate in Christmas celebrations, exchanging gifts and greetings.
Lila Richard, an 82-year-old parishioner and a retired teacher who taught at a Christian missionary school in Srinagar, said Christians and Muslims have been living in harmony for decades in the Kashmir Valley.
“As far as I can tell you, we haven’t faced danger of any sort since Christians have never been involved in any upheavals that have engulfed the region over the past two decades,” she said.