Pope Francis visited the island of Sri Lanka this week, and he is taking his message of peace and tolerance with him to the war-torn country. During the Pope’s visit, he focused on peacemaking and unification rather than criticizing the various factions with the nation. With this goal in mind, Pope Francis addressed a multi-faith coalition on Tuesday.
“For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division.”
To highlight the pope’s effectiveness in his mission, the Catholic News Agency reports that a Sri Lankan imam also condemned religious extremism, saying that “Islam has no relationship with regard to such practices and evil conduct and deeds,” and that extremists “have used many religions as a shelter.” These statements are in perfect accord with the spirit of the pope’s visit.
Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena is also taking the pope’s tone, stating that he will put an end to the persecution of religious minorities by “cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace,” according to BBC News.
Consistent with his ongoing mission, Pope Francis’s goal is to help each faction come to terms with their own atrocities in order to help the nation heal. To those ends, Pope Francis addressed the use of religion as an excuse for warfare and 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.”
Pope Francis himself views his message of tolerance as vital, especially in regions such as Sri Lanka, where Catholics make up only 8 percent of the population, and the Philippines, where militant extremism has become a problem.
The pope’s presence is also significant because it marks the first time the pope has visited the island since the end of the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels. The last time a pope made the visit, he was boycotted by the Buddhist leaders. This time, however, they welcomed Pope Francis with open arms.
Do you think that Pope Francis is doing the right thing by uniting the world’s religious leaders or should the Pope call for Catholics to take prominence on the world stage as the moral authority?