Happy Diwali Day
Growing up as one of just a handful of Hindus in St Louis, Missouri (USA), our family always celebrated this “festival of lights” at home. We would place the traditional oil lamps in every room of the house to light Ram’s way back to his kingdom after fourteen years in exile. Incense, candles and sweets were offered to the Goddess Laxmi in the hopes that she would bless our house with wealth. On our more adventurous years, we would set off firecrackers and watch them burst over the lake behind our house.
For me, Diwali has always been a personal, family celebration. For many years after I left home, I continued the tradition of lighting oil lamps in whatever apartment, room, hut or house I happened to be living in. In lieu of making an offering to Goddess Laxmi, I would often reflect on my own privileged position, growing up in a society that offered me good healthcare, education and leisure.
The essence of this holiday lies at the heart of my work with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF) here in India. Through its innovative Faith Acts Fellowship programme, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is raising awareness on some of the most pressing ills of our time –preventable diseases - and doing so through the lens of faith.
Our Faiths Act Fellows in India work in inter-faith pairs with host organisations to showcase the power of faith when harnessed for just causes like malaria prevention. They come from different backgrounds and religious traditions and have pledged to work together for ten months to bring some light to communities living at the margins of Indian society.
This October, as I have watched the preparations underway in Delhi in anticipation of Diwali, I am imagining families across the country commemorating stories of justice and triumph that date back several thousand years. I am thinking about the opportunities to combat injustice in our lifetime, the chance to share our privilege and our wealth with those who have lacked the opportunities that we have enjoyed, and the duties and obligations that are entrenched into the religions that
we espouse and adopt.
Only years later and after moving to India, did I realise that Diwali is essentially about the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and justice over injustice. While celebrations vary across the country, this underlying message is the essence of the holiday throughout the country. Although consumerism has influenced Diwali like many other popular festivals, families continue to gather together at one home and spend the day rejoicing with their friends and loved ones, remembering stories like Ram vanquishing the demon King Ravana and asking Laxmi for her blessings.
The Faiths Act Fellows in India are taking the teachings from their respective religions and actively pursuing a more just world. I am proud to support their work in this country and invite you to the same. Go to our website to see how you can get more involved www.faithsact.org or follow us on Twitter: TonyBlair_TBFF
Sandhya, Faiths Act Coordinator