It is heartening to note, in his statement made after the meeting with the Bishops’ conference of SL, that Pope Francis has drawn attention to the victims of violence and war.
Among many words of wisdom found in the statement, I am very much touched when he notes that the “poor should not be forgotten and inequality not be permitted to grow”. I guess one of his priorities for Sri Lanka is the “elimination of violence”.
Indeed, the cause for emergence and prevalence of violence in Sri Lankan society is the “increased economic development”. Such development cannot be achieved without “exclusion and inequality in society”, which is a kind of unceasing violence inbuilt into the system of governance and politics.
In Sri Lanka violence takes various forms such as cultural, economic and also political. From his statement we can observe that Pope Francis seems to be well informed about the cultural violence that is prevalent in the country due to ethnic war and “religious extremism”.
However, I wonder whether Pope is sufficiently informed about the fact that cultural violence in Sri Lanka is often a political tool made use of by those engaged in power politics to legitimize their positions. The perpetrators of violence caused by the elements of religious extremism have never been brought before the Law. Hence it can be concluded that even religious extremism seems to be sponsored by those who wield political power.
Amidst this controversy there is also an effort on the part of the Church and governing authorities to invite the Pope to Sri Lanka. His visit, if happens as planned, will be another cultural event that could be used by the current regime to justify its image before the masses now marred by years of violence inflicted on people.
On the other hand, if Pope decides to visit Sri Lanka the event ought to become a source of strength to the victims of violence and never let it be a source to legitimize the perpetrators of violence.
Pope also speaks about economic development that Sri Lanka has achieved. The violent character of economic development can be seen in the way the wealth is distributed. According to an official data the richest 20% of the Sri Lankan society enjoys 54% of our national wealth and the poorest 20% is left with only a 5%.
The 18th amendment to the constitution is another instance of exclusion. The creation of a system of executive presidency in which all power concentrated in one person is a form of political violence where the principal equality is ruthlessly undermined.
It is known that Pope Francis has won recognition not only among the Catholics but also among those non Catholics as a world leader who is more than capable of contributing towards making our world more just and humane. He does so by motivating the Catholic community which has been called to be the “leaven in the midst of humanity”. Whether Pope Francis visit Sri Lanka or not, the Catholic community can be enriched by Pope Francis’s pastoral advice and guidance. Nevertheless in order that his teaching to become more relevant and contextual, the Pope has to be presented with a genuine picture of the socio, economic and political realities affecting the life of a larger majority of the population.