The bell at a church in a Muslim-dominated city in India rang for the first time in five decades on Sunday.
The 120-year-old church, located in Srinagar, the largest city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India, lost its bell after an arson attack by protesters demonstrating against the 1967 Mideast war 50 years ago, The Associated Press reported.
The church and its belfry were badly damaged in the attack, and the bell was rendered useless. It was built during Britain’s imperial rule over India.
It took so long for the community to restore the bell due to a lack of resources, Sydney Rath, a local Christian member of the church, told the AP.
One of the 30 Christian families living in the city donated the funds for the bell, which weighs a whopping 231 pounds and is the largest bell of its kind in the state.
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Members of the city’s small Christian community gathered in front of the Holy Family Catholic Church to celebrate the new bell in an interfaith ceremony. Christians make up just .28 percent of the population, The Hindu reported, citing 2011 census data.
The church’s pastor, The Rev. Roy Matthews, said the ceremony reflected the “composite culture” of Kashmir.
“So the message is loud and clear that we all are one, no matter whatever faith, persuasion you have, but basically we are all human beings,” Matthews said. “This is a message that every religion should make known to the world today because of the divisions and violence in the name of religion.”
Both India and Pakistan administer parts of Kashmir, but each nation claims the Himalayan territory in its entirety, according to The AP. Since 1989, rebel groups have been fighting for India’s portion of Kashmir to become independent or merge with Pakistan.
(H/T: The Associated Press)