War Must Never Be Allowed to Divide World Religions, Says Pope

In His Address to Indonesian Bishops

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II stressed the importance of not allowing war to divide religions, warning that a human catastrophe could also become a religious catastrophe.

The Pope made this appeal Saturday during his address to the bishops of the Indonesian episcopal conference, who were making their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.

“War must never be allowed to divide world religions,” the Holy Father said during his meeting with Bishops Justinus Harjosusanto of Tanjung Selor, Aloysius Sutrisnaatmaka of Palangkaraya, and Aloysius Murwito of Agats.

John Paul II asked the bishops to “take this unsettling moment as an occasion to work together, as brothers committed to peace with your own people, with those of other religious beliefs, and with all men and women of good will in order to ensure understanding, cooperation and solidarity.”

“Let us not permit a human tragedy also to become a religious catastrophe,” he told the bishops. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world.

In Indonesia, “the Christian community has suffered from discrimination and prejudice,” and “from acts of destruction and vandalization,” the Holy Father noted. He also recalled the recent terrorist attack in Bali.

In this context, John Paul II said, “Be careful not to yield to the temptation to define groups of people by the acts of an extremist minority. Authentic religion does not advocate terrorism or violence, but seeks to promote in every way the unity and peace of the whole human family.”

The Pope stressed the role of the Indonesia bishops in “fostering peace and harmony in a country composed of so many various groups,” which, in fact, has about 300 ethnic groups.

“Indeed, your conference seeks to reflect the motto ‘Bihneka Tungal Ika’ — unity in diversity — found on your national coat of arms,” he said.

Observing the bishops’ own various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the Holy Father said that the latter, “brought together in an atmosphere of faith, dialogue and mutual trust, can offer a model of hope for all of Indonesia.”

“Religious freedom, which has been one of the characteristics of Indonesia society, is guaranteed by the nation’s Constitution,” he added. “The Church must at all times remain vigilant to ensure that this principle is respected.”

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