Religions merge as cricket takes over
In their places of worship, they preach their respective religions. But when leaders from eight faiths came together at Brabourne Stadium on Sunday morning, there was only one religion: cricket.
Their rosary beads, Sunday masses, and aartis forgotten, 42 imams, priests, pundits, rabbis, Buddhist monks, Sikh Granthis, Zoroastrian dasturjis and Jain sants picked up bat and ball to play with, not against, each other at a ‘Cricket for Peace’ match organised by Wisdom Foundation.
“We wanted to promote unity in diversity and strengthen the bonds between communities,” said Dr Zeenat Ali, founder of Wisdom Foundation and professor of Islamic studies at St Xavier’s College, Dhobi Talao.
For two months, the religious leaders and those studying in seminaries came together at Azad Maidan every Thursday and Friday to get to know each other and prepare for D-day.
“We have very different beliefs, thoughts and practices so I was apprehensive when I signed on,” said Sadhu Bhagwant Jayesh Poladya, a Jain priest. “It was awkward initially, but quite soon, we had all bonded.”
Imam Aslam Raza Sheikh, who is studying to be a maulana at Minara Masjid Madrasa, felt the same. “When I met the team, I didn’t think we would gel, but we became friends. Now I feel sad that we may not meet again,” he said.
Dressed in white sports gear, teams ‘Prem’ and ‘Pyaar’ played an intense Twenty20 match, with true sportsmanlike spirit.
“We would clap even if the other team took a boundary, if we felt the batsman did a good job,” said Father Philip D’Souza, captain of the Prem team.
The game also changed the way the participants viewed other religions. “I used to interact only with people following Islam and never gave a thought to any other religion. Now, I have realised that we are all Hindustani first. I will tell my people to respect other communities,” said Imam Sheikh.
“We wanted to reach out to the common man through religious leaders who preach to them. If these leaders can put religion aside to play together, people can live together in peace,” said Nandini Sardesai, who was instrumental in organising the event.