Of tolerance and respect
As shown by his visit to an orphanage in Manila and his lunch with the survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda in Palo, Leyte, Pope Francis prioritizes family welfare and reaffirmed the Church’s stand against contraception.
What was surprising was Pope Francis’s call for people to respect each other’s faiths in response to the massacre of 12 staffers of the Charlie Hebdo editorial office in France that drew global condemnation from government leaders and the international community.
Though it is understood that the people who carried out the attack were extremists, and that most in the global Muslim community joined in condemning the massacre, the pope’s call for religious tolerance, respect and understanding significantly tempers that condemnation.
Christianity may have been under fire from liberal secular sectors, but it has advocates to explain and defend the faith. A rich assortment of lay groups from covenanted communities like Bukas Loob ng Dios to those engaged in apologetics like the Catholic Faith Defenders, of which former Talisay city mayor Socrates Fernandez is an active member, do what they can to spread a divine message of love.
Several Muslim leaders have taken pains to explain and defend their faith to naysayers and critics who view Islam as radical and extremist. Sadly, however, there are Muslims who have risen up in arms over what they consider Hebdo’s insulting depictions of Mohammad which eventually led to that tragic attack in Paris.
Pope Francis’ message of respect is timely and in accordance with his efforts to reach out not only to other faiths. He visited a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka before his four-day visit in the Philippines, and reached out to marginalized sectors of society like the gay community.
Deeper than just tolerance, his message also drives respect, an acknowledgement of a person’s right to free will, and freedom of one’s beliefs and choices.
Too many wars were fought using religion as justification. Thankfully, religious debates have been diverted to healthier venues like TV shows and street debates but the war continues and has even hit close to home as shown by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.
Pope Francis’ message may not change public mindsets overnight. It is, however, worth pursuing if only to create a better and more peaceful world to live in.
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