Unity always takes place in differences

Unity always takes place in differences

Lessons from Pope Francis' visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh

Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh in November 2017 provided an opportunity for him to address issues of interfaith dialogue. Below are the those speeches where he addressed those issues:

Meeting with the Religious Leaders of Myanmar

On 28 November 2017, the second day of his Apostolic Journey to Myanmar, Pope Francis met the country’s 17 religious leaders – Buddhists, Muslims, Hindu, Jews, and Christians, at the Archbishopric of Yangon. Lamenting before them the “global tendency to uniformity,” the Holy Father advocated “unity in differences.” “We are brothers,” he stressed.

This meeting, which took place in the Archbishopric’s Refectory, began at 10:00 am (4:30 am, in Rome) and lasted some 40 minutes. Each of the participants took to the floor briefly. According to a Holy See press release, the main theme was that of unity in diversity.

The Pope, whose words were pronounced with a full heart in Spanish, stressed – quoting the Psalms:

“That it is good to see brothers united.” “United doesn’t mean identical. Unity isn’t uniformity, including within the same Confession. Each one has his values, his riches and also his shortcomings,” he specified, as reported by Vatican Radio.

“We are all different and each Confession has its riches, its traditions, its riches to be given, to be shared,” continued the Pontiff. “And this can only happen if one lives in peace. And peace is made in the choir of differences. Unity always takes place in differences.”

Pope Francis deplored “a world tendency to uniformity, to make everything identical”: It’s to kill humanity,” he warned. “It’s a cultural colonization . . . We must understand the richness of our differences (ethnic, religious, popular); it’s in these differences that dialogue takes place. It’s from these differences that one learns from the other, as brothers.”

He greeted the “riches and differences” of the country. “In Myanmar, nature is very rich in differences. Let us not be afraid of differences! Our Father is one. We are brothers. Let us remain as brothers. And if we are not in agreement between us, may we be reconciled immediately as brothers. Let us always begin again as brothers. I believe that it’s only this way that peace is made.”

“Make peace,” concluded the Pontiff. “Do not let yourselves be uniformed by the colonization of cultures. Veritable divine harmony is made through differences. Differences are a richness for peace.”

The Vatican gave a list of those present at the meeting: Ashin Aria Wonthar Biwontha of the Myawaddy Min Gyi monastery; Buddhist monk Asia Alin Sayadaw; the President of Botahtaung Sankhnayaka, Sayadaw U. Thila Wontha; the Vice-Rector of the International Wipathanar University, Sayadaw Dr. Thondara; the President of Religions for Peace and the Buddhist Yadana Metta Development organization, U Myint Shwe; the Chief Convener of the Islamic Center of Myanmar, Ahah khaliphosh U Aye Lwin; the President of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council, Ahah U Nyunt Maung Sheine, the President of the Islamic Center of Myanmar, Ahah U Khin Maung Myint; the Secretary of the All Myanmar Hindu Centre Council, U Kyaw Thu; the Secretary of the Hindu Drama Shiksha Samiti, Sann Min Naing; the Catholic leader Robert Manam Tu Ja of the state of Kachin; the President of the Council of Churches of Myanmar, Patrick Loo Nee; the Anglican Archbishop of the province of Myanmar Stephen Than Myint Oo; the Secretary of the Public Relations Committee of the Baptist Convention of Myanmar, the Reverend Mahn San Thein Tun; the Patron of the Myanmar Prayer Committee, the Reverend Aung Thet Nyunt; the Secretary of the province of the Church of Myanmar, the Reverend Paul Myint Htet; and the head of the Jewish community Sammy Samuel.

After this event, the Holy Father received briefly the Buddhist head Sitagou Sayadaw. Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, highlighted in this meeting “the effort to encourage peace and fraternal coexistence as the unique path to be followed.”

Read the full article: https://zenit.org/articles/myanmar-popes-meeting-between-brothers-with-the-countrys-religious-leaders-advocates-unity-in-differences/



Kaba Aye Centre (Yangon)
Wednesday, 29 November 2017

It is a great joy for me to be with you.  I thank the Most Venerable Bhaddanta Dr Kumarabhivamsa, Chairman of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, for his words of welcome and for his efforts in organizing my visit here today.  In greeting all of you, I express my particular appreciation for the presence of His Excellency Thura Aung Ko, Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture.

Our meeting is an important occasion to renew and strengthen the bonds of friendship and respect between Buddhists and Catholics.  It is also an opportunity for us to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.  Not only in Myanmar, but also throughout the world, people need this common witness by religious leaders.  For when we 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.  We help Buddhists, Catholics and all people to strive for greater harmony in their communities.

In every age, 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.

I express my esteem for the all those in Myanmar who live in accord with the religious traditions of Buddhism.  Through the teachings of the Buddha, and the dedicated witness of so many 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.  I commend the ongoing work of the Panglong Peace Conference in this regard, and I pray 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.  Opportunities for religious leaders to encounter one another and to dialogue are proving to be a notable element in the promotion of justice and peace in Myanmar.  I am aware that in April of this year the Catholic Bishops’ Conference hosted a two-day peace meeting, at which leaders of the different religious communities took part, together with ambassadors and representatives of non-governmental agencies.  Such gatherings are essential if we are to deepen our understanding of one another and affirm our interconnectedness and common destiny.  Authentic justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for all.

Dear friends, 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.  In the Christian Scriptures, the Apostle Paul challenges his hearers to rejoice with those who rejoice, while weeping with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), humbly bearing one another’s burdens (cf. Gal 6:2).  On behalf of my Catholic brothers and sisters, I express our readiness to continue walking with you and sowing seeds of peace and healing, compassion and hope in this land.

Once more, I thank you for inviting me to be with you today.  Upon all of you I invoke the divine blessings of joy and peace.

Link to source: Address to the Buddhist leaders in Myanmar


Garden of the Archbishopʼs Residence (Dhaka)
Friday, 1 December 2017


Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

Our meeting, which brings together representatives of the various religious communities present in this country, represents a highly significant moment in my Visit to Bangladesh.  For we have gathered to deepen our friendship and to express our shared desire for the gift of genuine and lasting peace.

My thanks go to Cardinal D’Rozario for his kind words of welcome, and to those who have greeted me warmly on behalf of the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian communities, and in the name of civil society.  I am grateful to the Anglican bishop of Dhaka for his presence, to the various Christian communities, and to all those whose have helped to make this gathering possible.

The words we have heard, but also the songs and dances that have enlivened our assembly, have spoken to us eloquently of the yearning for harmony, fraternity and peace embodied in the teachings of the world’s religions.  May our meeting this afternoon be a clear sign of the efforts of the leaders and followers of the religions present in this country to live together in mutual respect and good will.  In Bangladesh, where the right to religious freedom is a founding principle, this commitment stands as a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion.

It is a particularly gratifying sign of our times that believers and all people of good will feel increasingly called to cooperate in shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family.  This entails more than mere tolerance.  It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth.  It challenges us to cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.

Allow me to explore with you briefly some essential features of this “openness of heart” that is the condition for a culture of encounter.

First, it is a doorIt is not an abstract theory but a lived experience.  It enables us to embark on a dialogue of life, not a mere exchange of ideas.  It calls for good will and acceptance, yet it is not to be confused with indifference or reticence in expressing our most deeply held convictions.  To engage fruitfully with another means sharing our distinct religious and cultural identity, but always with humility, honesty and respect.

Openness of heart is also like a ladder that reaches up to the Absolute.  By recalling this transcendent dimension of our activity, we realize the need for our hearts to be purified, so that we can see all things in their truest perspective.  As with each step our vision becomes clearer, we receive the strength to persevere in the effort to understand and value others and their point of view.  In this way, we will find the wisdom and strength needed to extend the hand of friendship to all.

Openness of heart is likewise a path that leads to the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity.  It leads to seeking the good of our neighbours.  In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Saint Paul urged his hearers: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).  This is a sentiment that all of us can echo.  Religious concern for the welfare of our neighbor, streaming from an open heart, flows outward like a vast river, to quench the dry and parched wastelands of hatred, corruption, poverty and violence that so damage human lives, tear families apart, and disfigure the gift of creation.

Bangladesh’s different religious communities have embraced this path in a particular way by their commitment to the care of the earth, our common home, and by their response to the natural disasters that have beset the nation in recent years.  I think too of the common outpouring of grief, prayer and solidarity that accompanied the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, which remains fresh in the minds of all.  In these various ways, we see how the path of goodness leads to cooperation in the service of others.

A spirit of openness, acceptance and cooperation between believers does not simply contribute to a culture of harmony and peace; it is its beating heart.  How much our world needs this heart to beat strongly, to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies, and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities, and those who are most vulnerable.  How much, too, is such openness needed in order to reach out to the many people in our world, especially the young, who at times feel alone and bewildered as they search for meaning in life!

Dear friends, I thank you for your efforts to promote the culture of encounter, and I pray that, by demonstrating the common commitment of believers to discerning the good and putting it into practice, they will help all believers to grow in wisdom and holiness, and to cooperate in building an ever more humane, united and peaceful world.

I open my own heart to all of you, and I thank you once more for your welcome.  Let us remember one another in our prayers.

Remarks of the Holy Father to the Group of Rohingya Refugees

Dear brothers and sisters, all of us are close to you.  There is little that we can do because your tragedy is so great.  But let us make room in our heart.  In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, of those who have wronged you, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask your forgiveness.  Forgiveness.  So many of you have told me about the Bangladesh’s big heart that has welcomed you.  Now I appeal to your big heart, that it can grant us the forgiveness we seek.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Judaeo-Christian creation account says that the Lord who is God created man in his image and likeness.  All of us are this image.  These brothers and sisters of ours, as well.  They too are an image of the living God.  One of your religious traditions says that God, in the beginning, took some salt and cast it in the water that was the soul of all men and women.  Each of us carries within himself a little of the divine salt.  These brothers and sisters of ours carry within them the salt of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us only make the world see what the world’s selfishness is doing with the image of God.  Let us continue to do good for them, to help them.  Let us continue to work actively for the recognition of their rights.  Let us not close our hearts, or look the other way.  The presence of God, today, is also called “Rohingya”.  May each of us respond in his or her own way.

Link to source: Address to the religious leaders in Bangladesh