My blog post of last month addressed the notion of purpose of violence in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. We saw the involvement of religion and politics in the aftermath of the incident, over the past month. The intention of this blog post is to help us to understand how religion and politics positively and negatively impacted the lives of people.
Since I am not an intelligence, theological or political science expert to make judgements about what happened, and who was responsible for what happened, I request you not to take the assumptions I make in this post as truth. I am far away from the inner circles to know the truth and I am basing this blog post on what I have heard from trusted personalities such as the Cardinal of Sri Lanka, the Commander of the Army, and a retired intelligence experts known to me personally.
It was really heart warming to see the visions and hear the sound bites of the Inter-faith conference held in Colombo Sri Lanka as a part of the visit by His Holiness Pope Francis on the 1st day of his 3 day visit to Sri Lanka. The conference was led by some of the most senior leaders of Buddhism [followed by the majority of Sri Lankans], Hinduism, Islam and other Christian religions. It was attended by over 1000 members of the clergy of each of the religions. The ceremony included a welcome from a Catholic Bishop, a chant from a Buddhist Monk, blessings from Hindu and Muslim leaders, and an ecumenical Christian prayer led by the head of Sri Lanka’s Anglican church. Each speaker had a message that had peace, unity, reconciliation and respect for each other. Pope Francis said inter-faith work should not blur the lines between different religious convictions and he sought to reaffirm respect for each religion’s beliefs but to ground such respect in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions and that religion cannot be used for violent purposes. The Sri Lankan Muslim leader Ash-Sheikh M.F.M. Fazil said, “I will fail in my duties if I do not mention the attack, the killings, that took place in France, in Pakistan,” Fazil said; “Children were massacred and killed in the name of Islam. As we know very well, Islam has no relationship with regard to such practices and evil conduct and deeds,” he continued. “Islam promoted peace, love, and harmony.One of Sri Lanka’s senior Buddhist leaders Niyangoda Vijithasiri Thero who delivered a sermon mentioned all religions are important and used the metaphor of different treatment methods to cure the same disease.
Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, was at the airport to welcome the pontiff and in his welcome speech mentioned that he is blessed to have the Holy father visit soon after his elections and requested for his prayers. This is significant coming from a Buddhist, the 1st citizen of a Buddhist country.
The Mass by the pope was not only attended by the Buddhist but by members of other religions and many of them had mentioned to the media that this is one of the most significant days of their life. All this augurs well for inter-faith corporation and understanding that can lead to peace, unity and reconciliation. The world has seen many efforts of unity by world leaders.
In December 2014 President Barack Obama went in to a peace deal with Cuba with a symbolic prisoner exchange and anticipated reforms by Cuba and lifting of embargos by the USA. In January 2015 all political parties in Sri Lanka united to appoint a President known for his virtues and to form a government that will reform the political culture in Sri Lanka. A few days ago most world leaders gathered in Paris to show solidarity after the attacks in Paris. It was significant that both the leaders of Israel and Palestine were a part of the world leaders who had locked hands together in solidarity. In the backdrop of the various conflicts, terrorism and armed conflicts going on around the world, these are efforts to find love, peace, truth, justice, reconciliation, unity, progress and happiness to make our efforts to finding love, peace, truth, justice, reconciliation, unity, progress and happiness to make our world a better place.
It was late night last Wednesday; I was doing some work on my laptop. After finishing off one task I just logged in to Facebook and saw a photo of the white smoke coming out of the Vatican with a comment ‘We have a Pope’
I immediately switched on the TV and was thrilled to see the live broadcast and the new Pope was about to make his first appearance. I was pleasantly surprised to hear than the new Pope was from South America, I was thrilled to hear that he had chosen the name Francis which is also the name of my late dad. It was mentioned he lived a simple life and had given up his official residence and car back in Argentina and rode the bus with the others and used the opportunity to connect with the masses.
As he walked on to the balcony and looked at the crowd it was easy to see how humble the new Pope was. He was also confident and looked like a man ready for a mission. What a mission it is going to be, given the challenges facing the Catholic Church.
In one of his first sermons he mentioned that we should be ready to repent, accept our faults and ask for forgiveness from those we have harmed.
Meeting the press for the first time Pope Francis was relaxed, confident and full of humour. He told that the name Francis was chosen when the cardinal next to him embraced him and told him ‘don’t forget the poor’ as soon as he was elected. He then named himself after St Francis of Assisi who devoted his life for the poor, who was known to be committed to peace and who was known to be a reformist of the catholic church.
The event of the election of Pope Francis also created new social media records with over 1.2 billion tweets from all over the world sent out, in relation to this event. This shows that people around the world, specially the young are touched by his election and are filled with hope for a better tomorrow. Pope Francis is known as the Techie Pope as he has his twitter account @pontifex. His holiness who already has 1.9 million Twitter followers sent out just 1 tweet: Dear Friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me.
Everything about Pope Francis in this blog that I was fortunate to experience gives me the feeling that he is an Epitaph of Humility and gives me hope that he will be able to bring diverse groups of people, not only the various denominations of Christians, but also various religious groups together so that we can a live in a united, respectful and peaceful world.