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Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace, pope says

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Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace, pope says

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) — Christians and Buddhists are called
by faith to overcome evil with goodness and violence with peace, Pope Francis
said during a meeting with leaders of Myanmar’s Buddhist community.

Quoting St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha, the pope insisted
that in a land where the powerfully bonded pairing of religion and ethnicity
have been used to prolong conflict, it was time for religious leaders to
reclaim the greatest values and virtues of their faith traditions.

Pope Francis met Nov. 29 with members of the State Sangha
Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed group of senior Buddhist monks
who oversee some 500,000 monks and novices in Myanmar, where close to 90
percent of the population follows Buddhism.

One of the strongest anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya currents
of Myanmar society is led by Buddhist nationalists.

The meeting was hosted by the Buddhists at the Kaba Aye
Pagoda and Center.

As is customary, Pope Francis took off his shoes before
entering the hall and walked in his black socks to his place. The Buddhist
committee members sat directly opposite Pope Francis and members of his
entourage across a plush, bright blue rug.

The challenge of the Buddhist monks and of the Catholic
clergy, the pope said, is to help their people see that patience, tolerance and
respect for life are values essential to every relationship, whether with
people of the same family or ethnic group or with fellow residents of a nation.

The approach, he said, is common to both faiths.

Pope Francis quoted Buddha: “Overcome the angry by
non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity;
overcome the liar by truth.”

And then he pointed out how the “Prayer of St.
Francis” has a similar teaching: “Lord, make me an instrument of your
peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me
bring pardon. … Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there
is sadness, joy.”

“May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to
foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that,
through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and
religious convictions,” he said.

The pope did use the word “Rohingya,” whom the Myanmar government does not recognize as a separate ethnic
group, but he insisted the meeting was an occasion “to affirm a commitment
to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.”

Faith, he said, not only should lead adherents to an
experience of “the transcendent,” but also should help them see
“their interconnectedness with all people.”

Kumarabhivamsa, president of the committee, told the pope Buddhists believe
all religions can, “in some way,” bring peace and prosperity,
otherwise they would cease to exist.

Religious leaders, he said, “must denounce any kind of
expression that incites (people) to hatred, false propaganda, conflict and war
with religious pretexts and condemn strongly those who support such

Pope Francis ended his day with the Catholic bishops of
Myanmar, urging them to “foster unity, charity and healing in the life of
this nation.”

As he had earlier in the trip, the pope again defined as an
example of “ideological colonization” the idea that differences are a
threat to peaceful coexistence.

“The unity we share and celebrate is born of
diversity,” he said. Unity in the church and in a nation “values
people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth. It invites
people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity.”

As Myanmar continues its transition to democratic rule and
tries to deal with the challenges of development and full equality for all its
ethnic groups, Pope Francis told the bishops to make sure their voices are heard,
“particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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