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New cardinal addresses sectarian conflict and the spread of Christianity in Asia

Tagle says religion an unfair scapegoat for conflicts

New cardinal addresses sectarian conflict and the spread of Christianity in Asia
Cardinal Tagle greets visitors in Rome last month following his elevation by the pope (AFP photo/Vincenzo Pinto)
Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
Vatican City

December 6, 2012

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The Archbishop of Manila has told governments to stop trying to use religion as “convenient camouflage” for conflicts sparked by their failure to address poverty and social inequalities, while warning that a change in culture in his native Philippines is needed to make a recent peace agreement last.

Speaking to days after being made the Catholic Church’s second youngest cardinal, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said an October 15 agreement  with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was a “good step” and cause for “a lot of rejoicing and a lot of hope.”

However, “historical baggage” persists after decades of conflict on the island of Mindanao, Tagle said. 

“We need to build relationships again and show one another that we can live together,” he said, adding that the community needs to draw resources from both Christian and Muslim faiths “in order to forge peace and unity.”

The newly appointed cardinal said that after decades of fruitful interfaith dialogue at a leadership level throughout Asia, the moment has come to see that conflicts often portrayed as religious have other causes.

Behind these conflicts, there are “economic, ethnic and political issues which have not been addressed," he said.

“They’re using religion as a convenient camouflage for their failure to address poverty, infelicity, social inequalities.”

Some governments prefer conflicts to be labeled as religious, Tagle said. “That will spare them of their guilt. They can easily wash their hands and say it’s not in their territory, it is to be settled by religious leaders.”

For this reason, Cardinal Tagle called on interreligious dialogue in the future to “include real engagement with governments, so that through religious leaders -- all religions and communities -- can influence the leadership of their lands and their nations.”

The Manila archbishop also noted the growth of the Church in minority groups throughout Asia: “Those who find Christianity appealing are those who belong to the minority groups, whether ethnically, politically or culturally.”

While this is not new in the Church’s history, it is in stark contrast to what happens in the West where the Church has long been associated with the “elites and those who have influence," Tagle said. 

According to Tagle, the experience of indigenous groups, tribal communities and low castes can lead to discovering Jesus. "There is a meaning of hope in life if you follow him.” 

This is something that is lost on Western Christians, who are already "quite secure."

“The Good News may not be good anymore to them, because they can produce their own good news," Tagle said. 

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