Sri Lanka sheikh tells pope, We must understand each other

Sri Lanka’s religious stripes were all on colorful display for a meeting of representatives of the major faiths on the island.

Traditional Hevisi drummers set the scene, followed by Buddhist chants, Hindu and Muslim benedictions, an ecumenical prayer by an Anglican bishop, then speeches by a Buddhist monk and Pope Francis, who was visiting as part of a 2-day Asia tour.

The scene was far different in 1995 when Buddhist leaders boycotted John Paul’s visit to protest his criticism of the Buddhist concept of salvation.

In a sign of belonging, Francis sported a saffron-colored robe over his shoulders. Such robes are a cultural sign of honor among Tamils, a mainly Buddhist ethnic minority in Sri Lanka.

The Muslim representative at the meeting, Ash-Sheikh M.F.M Fazil, used his speech to condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Extremists have used many religions as a shelter to cover their own evil deeds and lies, he said. “We need to understand each others’ faiths” and support each other to build a healthy nation, the sheikh said.

— AP

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