Philippines’ Catholic faithful throng annual ‘Black Nazarene’ procession

Organizers expect the Black Nazarene procession to draw 6 million people as the crowds swell over the day. (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Philippines’ Catholic faithful throng annual ‘Black Nazarene’ procession

  • People were seen jostling through the crowd to be near the statue as it crawled through the capital
  • Organizers expect procession to draw 6 million people as the crowds swell over the day

MANILA: Hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics in the Philippines walked barefoot on Thursday around a centuries-old black wooden statue of Jesus Christ believed to have healing powers, praying for good health and economic success in the new year.
Devotees clad in yellow and maroon thronged the life-sized statue known as the “Black Nazarene” as it was paraded through the streets of Manila aboard a rope-pulled carriage, in one of the main annual festivals in Asia’s largest Catholic nation. “I joined the procession to wish for good fortune for my family, good health and for my future plans,” Ian Lanaria said.
Participating for the first time, Lanaria said he had decided to join after previously watching the mass ritual on television and hearing about the miracles from his friends.
People were seen jostling through the crowd of police to be near the statue as it crawled through the capital, believing that a slight touch would bless them, heal their illnesses and those of their relatives.
Thursday’s procession is expected to last for hours, and organizers expected it to draw 6 million people as the crowds swell over the day.
An early morning estimate by police put the crowd at around 400,000 people, excluding those waiting further along the procession’s six-kilometer (3.7 miles) route.
Having had his prayers answered when he was in need of money in the past, Bonny Morales, 65, was among the early worshipers.
“After making a vow to the Black Nazarene my loan immediately got approved, which is why I truly believe in its miraculous powers, especially for those who have strong faith in the Black Nazarene,” Morales said.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 22 January 2020

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.