With reconciliation at the heart
· On arriving in Sri Lanka, the Pope says that using religion as a justification for violence and war is unacceptable ·
Diversity is not “a threat” but a “a source of enrichment” for all societies. On arriving in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, 13 January, for the first of two stops of his visit, Pope Francis pointed once again to the high road in order to move beyond division and conflict, which are born out of the “inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new” and to cultivate “virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace”.
His message is particularly timely for the Asian country, which has experienced the horrors of civil war for 30 years and which is searching for peace. “It is no easy task”, the Pope admitted in his first discourse, addressing the newly-elected president of the Republic, Maithripala Sirisena. But, he added, it must be realized with perseverance, without concessions and in the respect for truth: “not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.”
In rebuilding on a material and moral level, he said, the traditional religions of Sri Lanka play an essential role in the nation which is mostly Buddhist but which also has a significant presence of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Pope Francis asked that everyone have freedom and a voice, encouraging believers to “respect legitimate diversities, and learn to live as one family. Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent”.
He repeated this call at the close of the first day of his visit in a meeting with interreligious and ecumenical leaders. “For the sake of peace,” he stated, “religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed”.
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