VATICAN CITY (CNS): Appealing for an end to anti-Christian violence in Indonesia and India, Pope John Paul II called on all people to strive for interreligious harmony.
“I dare to hope that those who enact (violence) or instigate it understand that we cannot kill and destroy in the name of religion, nor manipulate religion to serve personal interests,” the Pope said on June 28 following his weekly general audience.
“I ask those in power to take firm action so that the situation improves; I ask all people to lay down hatred and to work tirelessly for the re-establishment of religious harmony, in reciprocal respect and love,” he said to some 30,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
Indonesia’s Maluku Islands erupted into renewed violence between Muslims and Christians in late May following a period of relative calm.
Clashes first broke out in January 1999 and have continued intermittently since then, despite an increased military presence.
Some troops, reportedly fighting alongside local inhabitants, have been recalled from the area.
Church leaders in the islands issued an appeal for UN intervention on June 22, saying Muslim extremists were trying to expunge the area of all Christians.
The Pope deplored the violence and said Muslim attacks against Christian villages “are provoking numerous victims and widespread destruction without limits”.
“Similarly disturbing news comes from India,” said the Pope, “where multiple attacks against Christian communities and other minorities have occurred.”
The Pope met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapayee on June 26 at the Vatican, less than a week after the death of Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Delhi, who had called repeatedly on the Indian Government to take action to put an end to Hindu extremists’ attacks on Christians.