War Would Be a Tragedy for Religions Too, Says John Paul II

Pope Receives in Audience the Leaders of Faiths of Indonesia

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- With the specter of war looming, John Paul II appealed for the avoidance of policies that might become sources of major divisions among the world’s religions.

The Pope made this appeal today when he received a delegation of the Gerakan National Moral Movement of Indonesia (GMNI), whose spokesman for the audience was Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, archbishop of Jakarta.

For the GMNI, which includes eminent Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist representatives, coexistence is possible.

The leaders of Indonesia’s religions handed the Holy Father a «statement of concerns» regarding the Iraqi crisis, said Vatican Press Office director Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

The Pope, in his address to the group, recalled his own words of Jan. 13 to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican: «War is always a defeat for humanity.» On this occasion, he added: «It is also a tragedy for religion.»

Neither «the threat of war nor war itself should be allowed to alienate Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other religions,» the Pope stressed.

«As religious leaders committed to peace, we should work together with our own people, with those of other religious beliefs and with all men and women of good will, to ensure understanding, cooperation and solidarity,» he said.

John Paul II explained that, «through commitment and continuing cooperation,» cultures and religions «will be able to break through the barriers which divide them, to understand one another and to pardon those who have done them wrong.»

«This is the way that leads to true peace on earth,» the Pontiff stated.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has struggled in recent years with social and political upheaval, secessionist tension, interreligious violence and conflict and, more recently, international terrorism with the Bali bombing, the agency Fides noted.

Vatican spokesman Navarro-Valls said that the discussion at the audience touched «on the evolution of the religious situation in Indonesia and Asia.»

«The members of the delegation appealed to the Holy See to continue and to intensify its diplomatic efforts so that all interested parties might find a just and peaceful solution to the present Iraq crisis, based on the humanitarian and moral principles shared by all the religions of the world,» the Vatican spokesman said in a statement.

Cardinal Daraatmadja told Fides: «Today we feel it is our duty to speak out and say that if there should be a war with Iraq, some might call it a conflict between Christians and Muslims. However, the conflict with Iraq is not a war about religion.»

Hasyim Muzadi, the chairman of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said: «We leaders of different religions have come together to ensure that peace and solidarity will become the ethic code of Indonesia and of the whole world. We will voice to the Pope our full support to prevent this war.»

Muslim intellectual Nurcholish Madjid expressed concern that the «conflict may be interpreted as a war of religion with the consequent spread of fundamentalist violence in Indonesia and all over the world.»

Ahmad Syafii Maarif, leader of the Muslim organization Mujammadiyah, said: «We are convinced that the United States, today the only superpower after the fall of Communism, must give the world a demonstration of global wisdom, doing everything possible to defend and save humanity.»

«In keeping with the resolutions of the United Nations, 1441 in particular,» added Widodo Sutiyo, Indonesian ambassador to the Holy See and one of the organizers of the visit.

Sutiyo added: «Our government is convinced that war will bring no benefit whatsoever to anyone, especially to Indonesia where most people are Muslims.»

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