As part of his trip to Sri-Lanka, the Pope met with leaders of the area's major religions. Buddhism, Hinduism. Islam and Christianity. It was a one of a kind meeting and a local Cardinal recognized its importance.
MSGR. CLETUS CHANDRASIRI PERERA
Bishop of Ranapura (Sri Lanka)
"It is no doubt a sacred and unique event which will go down in the history of Sri Lanka”.
Buddhist monks, welcomed the Pope with this song.
The Hindu representative gave the Pope a bright cover, while the Muslim leader condemned the recent attacks Islamic extremists carried out in Paris and Pakistan.
"Islam has no relationship with regard to such practices and evil conduct and deeds”.
In his speech, the Pope explained that interfaith dialogue is a tool that fosters respect. A dialogue that is sincere, when no one masks or denies their beliefs.
"If we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.”
He also called for all ethnicities and religions to work together in rebuilding Sri Lanka.
"It is my hope that inter-religious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.”
The country suffered a civil war that lasted over 25 years, causing more than 100,000 deaths and roughly 1million refugees. The conflict had religious undertones. On one side there was the Buddhist government. On the other the Hindu guerrilla.
Amid the adversity, a spirit of fraternity must rise, said the Pope. Once again he highlighted that religion should never be used as a tool for violence.
"For the sake of peace, 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.”
Before heading out, Pope Francis made his way around the hall, greeting people and receiving gifts from representatives of each religion.