Pope in Myanmar: Catholics and Buddhists together promote the dignity of every human being

Francis went to one of the most venerated Buddhist temples in South East Asia. "A way of compassion and love" is the answer to the wounds caused by conflicts, poverty and oppression. "True justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for everyone."

Yangon (AsiaNews) - In a world that has to find ways to open to the transcendent, Catholics and Buddhists offer hope if they speak “with one voice in affirming the timeless values of justice, peace and the fundamental dignity of each human person, we offer a word of hope," reiterated Pope Francis today meeting with the leaders of Buddhism in Myanmar, in the person of the venerable Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, President of the State "Sangha" Committee.

The meeting took place in the Kaba Aye Center (pictured), one of the most venerated Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, and saw the presence of the Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture, Thura U Aung Ko.

In a 90 percent Buddhist country (Christians as a whole are 4 percent of the population and only 700 thousand are Catholics), Francis called the meeting "  an important occasion to renew and strengthen the bonds of friendship and respect between Buddhists and Catholics. " "We help – he added - Buddhists, Catholics and all people to strive for greater harmony in their communities."

“In every age," he said, " humanity experiences injustices, moments of conflict and inequality among peoples.  In our own day these difficulties seem to be especially pronounced.  Even though society has made great progress technologically, and people throughout the world are increasingly aware of their common humanity and destiny, the wounds of conflict, poverty and oppression persist, and create new divisions.  In the face of these challenges, we must never grow resigned.  For on the basis of our respective spiritual traditions, we know that there is a way forward, a way that leads to healing, mutual understanding and respect.  A way based on compassion and loving kindness."

The Pope then argued that through the Buddha's teachings and the witness of Buddhist monks and nuns " the people of this land have been formed in the values of patience, tolerance and respect for life, as well as a spirituality attentive to, and deeply respectful of, our natural environment.   As we know, these values are essential to the integral development of society, starting with its smallest but most essential unit, the family, and extending through the network of relationships that bring us together – relationships rooted in culture, ethnicity and nationality, but ultimately in our common humanity.  In a true culture of encounter, these values can strengthen our communities and help to bring much needed light to wider society. "

"The great challenge of our day is to help people be open to the transcendent.  To be able to look deep within and to know themselves in such a way as to see their interconnectedness with all people.  To realize that we cannot be isolated from one another.  If we are to be united, as is our purpose, we need to surmount all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance, prejudice and hatred.  How can we do this?  The words of the Buddha offer each of us a guide: “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth” (Dhammapada, XVII, 223).  Similar sentiments are voiced in a prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “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.  Such efforts are never solely the purview of religious leaders, nor are they the competence of the state alone.  Rather, it is the whole of society, all those present within the community, who must share in the work of overcoming conflict and injustice.  Yet it is the particular responsibility of civil and religious leaders to ensure that every voice be heard, so that the challenges and needs of this moment may be clearly understood and confronted in a spirit of fairness and mutual solidarity." He added “authentic justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for all.”

In expressing appreciation for the peace process underway at the Panglong Peace Conference, Francis hoped that "those guiding this effort may continue to promote greater participation by all who live in Myanmar.  This will surely assist the work of advancing peace, security and a prosperity inclusive of everyone. "

"Indeed, if these efforts are to bear lasting fruit, greater cooperation between religious leaders will be required.  In this, I want you to know that the Catholic Church is a willing partner." "Peaceful encounters are essential" as in April, when the Church hosts heads of various religious communities, along with ambassadors and representatives of non-governmental agencies.

"Dear friends," he concluded, " may Buddhists and Catholics walk together along this path of healing, and work side by side for the good of everyone who lives in this land."