Integration is not based on assimilation, but diversity –Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith | Sunday Observer

Integration is not based on assimilation, but diversity –Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

The Archishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith delivering his official Christmas message last week, requested all Christians to commit towards the well-being of the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks during this Christmas.

Moreover, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, his eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith stressed the importance of strengthening bonds between various communities in the country.

“It is very important to understand that in life, there is diversity. You can see that in nature, in the trees, in the flowers and the colours of the universe. So, there is diversity in ourselves too” he commented.

As he described this diversity is reflected through different cultures and religions that we see in the world. Particularly, humans are placed by God in varied situations where people must learn to reach out to each other and forge relationships with them, who are different from one’s own self.

Sri Lanka is home to a Buddhist majority and Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities. The key message His Eminence had to share was that harmony between these religious groups could only be achieved through sharing life with each other.

Share our lives

“We have to share our lives with others around us. That is the basis of inter-religious dialogue and harmony. I think that is necessary for a country like ours where we have significant minorities; the Hindus, the Muslims and the Christians. And there is a significant majority of Buddhists. All these cultures can contribute to each other. I firmly believe that acceptance of Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country, in no way is an obstacle for peace and harmony among other religious groups and even with the Buddhists” he explained.

While accepting reality as it is, His Eminence also condemned dominant thoughts over other religious groups.

No dominance

“What is necessary is to think that we are not going to dominate the other groups, but that we will respect each group for what it is and allow that group to function. And that we also seek to enrich ourselves from what the other groups have. Not try to impose ourselves on everyone else” the Cardinal pointed out.

The Cardinal further said, “There was a time there were wars for religion. Religious wars are not possible today. We have to accept that there is diversity. And it is a rich diversity. We must accept and respect each other. And learn to live in that situation without animosity, unhappiness or sadness. In fact, ‘we are different’, this is how we can look at each other. If we are the same we won’t be able to look at each other. The differences make it more attractive to reach out to others. That is why we must not be so proud that only what we know or who we are, is more important than the other. This kind of notions has to be changed. Because now with this religious extremism, the attempt is to try to say only we have the truth, nobody else has the truth. That is unrealistic”.

Soon after the Easter Sunday attack the Archbishop of Colombo took spiritual control of the Christian community, in the spirit of true Christian forgiveness he led them to reconciliation with other religious groups, which was commended by the public at the time.

“We always say that we will respect other religious traditions as much as we can. And that is why after the bomb attack I made a special appeal, knowing that there is a particular group whose suspected involvement could cause violence against them. I made repeated appeals to our Catholics not to resort to violence against other communities. I think that worked. All of us religious leaders should never be selfish. If we become selfish, we will be leading our follower on the wrong path. It will only lead to further violence and unhappiness. But we as religious leaders have a responsibility to try to help others to reach out to us, extend the hand of friendship and integrate with them as much as possible” he said.

Integration

The Archbishop continued, “Integration is always better. Integration is not based on assimilation but based on diversity. Accept that the Buddhists are different from us. Accept that Hindus, Muslims are different from us. And learn to live with them.

That is what is most important.” Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo has instructed various Catholic organisations to make this Christmas an opportunity to bring inter-religious harmony and reconciliation by celebrating Christmas together.

“We have told all our people around the place that if they organise inter-religious meetings over Christmas, they can do that. We hope that such gatherings will take place. We will see what happens. It is an open invitation to Christians to celebrate Christmas along with others, their Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist neighbours,” the Cardinal said.

“I would like to wish all of you very happy, holy and blessed Christmas” he ended the discussion with a blessing to all Sri Lankans.
 

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