A photo of a woman in a catholic nun outfit offering prayers to a photograph of the Hindu deity Ganesha is viral on social media. It appears to be a religious gathering with the presence of a few children in school uniforms on the left side and some men in relaxed formals on the right. On the top of the image, a text written in Tamil can be seen which reads, “To not have any obstacles while building the church, they are doing a Ganapati pooja.“
[Original text in Tamil: “சர்ச் கட்ட தடங்கல் வராமல் ‘ இருக்க கணபதி பூஜயாம்..”]
The same photograph has multiple shares on Twitter.
சர்ச் கட்ட தடங்கல் வராமல் இருக்க கணபதி பூஜை பண்றாங்க…
அப்ப இயேசுவுக்கு சக்தி இல்லை போல. காப்பார்,இரட்சிப்பார்,கூடவே இருப்பார்னு சொன்னுதுலாம் பொய் போல… pic.twitter.com/uK8sdUgdLd
— டகால்டி (@Da_galti_3) February 7, 2022
It is widely viral on Facebook with the very same claim.
Alt News has received multiple requests on our WhatsApp helpline (76000 11160) to verify the authenticity of this claim.
On performing a reverse image search on Google, we found out that the photos were picked from a report by a website named Omlanka. Neither the webpage nor the website is accessible.
However, an archive of the website is available on the Wayback Machine which helps us to see what the websites looked like at various points of time in the past. We retrieved the article from Omlanka through this service and took a screenshot of the article dated January 20, 2016. It states that the event was chaired by Zonal Director of Education Sahadul Najeem and Srila Siri Nirmaleswara Kurukal conducted the poojas. We also found the same viral image along with several others from what appeared to be snapshots of this event.
The article stated that this was a custom native to the Sammanthurai district in Sri Lanka during the celebration of the Thai Pongal festival. In this particular region, the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim religious leaders come together to celebrate the auspicious festival.
On performing a keyword search, we found photos of the director of education in Sammanthurai, Sahadul Najeem in an article from 2015 by The Marasu. The article is written in Tamil. The first paragraph of the article when translated states that “On the occasion of International Children’s Day, District Level Children’s Day events organized by Sammanthurai Zonal Education Office were held today at Savalkadai Weerattidal Al-Hidaya Maha Vidyalaya.”
Below we have added a collage of the photos available in the 2015 article by The Marasu and the 2016 article by Omlanka. Both the events were chaired by the Zonal Education minister of Sammanthurai, Sahadul Najeem. This further confirms that the viral photograph is from Sammanthurai, Sri Lanka.
Alt News reached out to Sri Lankan journalist Dilrukshi Handunetti via email to ask if there was a possibility of such an event taking place in parts of Sri Lanka. She told us that the Thai Pongal is celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community in Sri Lanka. “It is possible to have people of other faith including priests share in the celebrations. However, Sri Lanka also has new interfaith movements that promote multi-religious and multi-cultural events. People in the area may also be invited to join in the celebrations,” she stated further.
Therefore, based on the information present at hand, it is safe to conclude that the viral photograph is not of Christians offering prayer to the Hindu deity Ganesha to peacefully build a church. It is an interfaith celebration in Sammanthurai, Sri Lanka where it is custom for people of other faiths to participate in the fest.
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