You can download the Message Mahavir Jayanti_English-2017. Katharina Smith-Müller, the Interreligious Adviser to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, writes that “Jainism is an ancient religion that originated on the Indian subcontinent. It belongs to the group of Dharmic religions, who think about both the universe and individual lives in cyclical terms – i.e. a constant movement through “descending” and “ascending” ages, and a cycle of re-birth for each individual (with the ultimate aim of escaping this cycle). It is comparatively small in numbers, with around 6 million Jains worldwide, and only about 30,000 in the UK (larger centres can be found in Leicester, and near London in Potters Bar).
The festival of Mahavir Jayanti celebrates the life and birth of the 24th Tirthankara (spiritual leader) of the Jain faith, Lord Mahavir, who is believed to be the final one for the current age. Born in the 6th century BC, he spent 30 years travelling to spread the Jain faith, and Cardinal Tauran’s message picks up on one of his most central teachings, non-violence (ahimsa). It seems to me that this message speaks particularly deeply into our situation this year, following as it does the attacks in London: “Unfortunately, refusal by some to accept the ‘other’ […], mostly due to fear, ignorance, mistrust or sense of superiority, has generated an atmosphere of widespread intolerance and violence. This […] can be overcome ‘by countering it with more love, with more goodness.’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 18 February, 2008).”
It might also seem particularly apt, this year, to use the suggested bidding prayer for Mahavir Jayanti, as it falls on a Sunday (9th April). The leaflet also contains more information on the faith and the festival, and a short paragraph for the inclusion in newsletters.
Finally, the concept of non-violence in Christianity and Jainism was also discussed during Cardinal Tauran’s visit to this country, and the contributions by both speakers are still available.