YANGON, Myanmar – Pope Francis, who is on a state visit to Myanmar, met with a group of 17 leaders from various religious faiths in Yangon on Tuesday, and urged them to defend their identities and resist cultural colonialism.
The Pope spoke in Spanish during the 40-minute long meeting and drew a difference between unity and uniformity, warning that while unity was beautiful, an insistence on uniformity could lead to cultural colonialism.
“Everyone has their values, their wealth and their shortcomings. Each faith has their traditions, their wealth to give, and this can only happen if we live in peace,” he said.
The meeting between the Pope and the religious leaders was held at the archdiocesan headquarters, where the Pope is staying during his Myanmar visit which began on Monday.
The Bishop of the Pathein Diocese in Myanmar John Hsane Hgyi had opened the meeting, followed by leaders from Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths, according to Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke.
During the meeting the Pope urged Myanmar’s religious leaders to understand the value of ethnic and religious differences they represented, rather than be daunted by them.
The Pope also met Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw separately to discuss peaceful coexistence among communities in the country that has been in the glare for months over continuing atrocities against the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority community from the Rakhine region in western Myanmar.
The Pope is set to visit Naypyidaw later on Tuesday to meet President Htin Kyaw and Nobel Peace Laureate and the de-facto leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi.