Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, addressing guests at the May 21 kick-off of events commemorating the birthday of Buddha in France said he was delighted to be the cardinal in a country where 74 percent of the population is Buddhist.
There are also about 1.2 million Catholics among Sri Lanka’s population today (about 6 percent), and there are Hindu and Muslim minorities.
Cardinal Ranjith described relations of Sri Lanka’s people of different faiths as “a long standing amity.” However, secularism and fundamentalism “demean the supreme value of religious heroism which can help humanity to achieve true nobility, freedom from self and unity,” the cardinal said at the celebration of the festival called Vesak.
The Catholic Church of Sri Lanka faces the challenge to work towards national reconciliation and peace after a 26 year war with ethnic Tamil people ended in 2009 with accusations of human rights violations by both sides leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead.
Cardinal Ranjith who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka was among “distinguished” guests at the inauguration organized by the Permanent Delegation of Sri Lanka to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in France to commemorate Vesak at UNESCO in Paris.
Sri Lanka First Lady Shiranthi Wickramasinghe Rajapaksa also addressed the gathering centered on the theme “Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness towards Peace.” Guests included a delegation of government officials, Buddhist leaders and priests from around the world.
To read the full report, view photos click First Lady inaugurates series of events to mark Vesak at UNESCO