Catholic leaders in India and Pakistan are once again calling for peace and calm, as violence ramps up anew along the border between the two nations.
Late Sunday night, militants mounted a suicide attack on an Indian army camp outside the town of Baramulla, less than a week after Indian Special Forces wiped out seven sites they believed were launching pads for cross-border terrorist operations.
Those assaults came in retaliation for the killing of 18 Indian troops in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir on Sept. 18, an incident carried out by four heavily armed terrorists.
As has long been the case, the violence centers on the issue of the disputed province of Kashmir, parts of which are claimed by India, Pakistan and China.
In protest over what India sees as Pakistani tolerance for terrorist activity, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boycotted a recent meeting for cooperation among South Asian countries scheduled to be held in Islamabad.
The two countries have also harshly confronted each other in front of the delegates of the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York, where Modi accused Pakistan of sponsoring international terrorism.
Catholic leaders have described themselves as “anguished” by the situation.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, called for Prayers for Peace for India and Pakistan on October 4, while Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Indian Bishop’s Conference, called for prayers for the nation on October 16.
Gracias, who’s also a close adviser to Pope Francis as a member of his “C9” council of cardinal advisers, chose Oct. 4 as a day of prayer for peace because it’s the feast day of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the great apostle of peace in the Catholic tradition.
Gracias announced the initiative following Pope Francis’s World Day of Prayer for Peace, which was held in Assisi last month.
Gracias called Christians and people of good will to observe this day of prayer specifically for India/Pakistan dialogue, and for peace and cooperation.
“We are living in fraught times, [and] you are invited to spend some time on this day praying for peace which transcends religious, cultural, and national boundaries,” he said, in presenting the call for a day of prayer.
“Let each one spend some time in prayer for peace in India and Pakistan, to work for peace, to become bridge builders, and to commit ourselves personally to the defense and promotion of the fundamental good which is peace,” Gracias said.
“We ask Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to fill India and Pakistan, and the world, with his peace,” the cardinal said. “We ask upon Mary, Queen of Peace, to intercede for us [so that] the Indian and Pakistani nations may walk in the way of peace.”