COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Archbishop of Canterbury said all religions and their leaders must own up to extremist activities within their faith and examine which of their traditional teachings enable extremists to commit evil.
Rev. Justin Welby, the figurehead of the worldwide Anglican Church, told interfaith leaders in Sri Lanka that accepting responsibility is key rather than disavowing an evildoer as not a good enough follower of a religion.
Welby arrived in Sri Lanka on Thursday and first visited St. Sebastian’s Church near the town of Negombo and paid homage to those killed in the Easter suicide bomb attacks blamed on Muslim extremists. Later Thursday, he met with Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders.
Discussion among faiths has become more difficult in the last 30 or 40 years and in every faith, including in Christianity, extremist attitudes have grown, he told the religious leaders.
"And it is the duty of every religious tradition, for its leaders to resist extremism and to teach peaceful dialogue. So the first challenge to all of us is take responsibility," he said.
"If a Christian does something evil, it is not for me to say ’well they are not a real Christian’; I have to ask myself ’what is within my faith tradition, our historic teaching that makes it easy for them to do that?’"
"The second challenge in dialogue is honesty. Dialogue is where we are honest, where we open the door of our heart and say it is this that frightens me about you or this that I disagree with you about," said Welby.
"Whether Christian, Muslim Hindu, Buddhist whatever faith, society calls us to account and I believe that God calls us to account at the end of time. Have you been builders of peace or builders of pain?"
In the Easter attacks, more than 260 people died in six coordinated attacks on churches and hotels. Seven suicide bombers from two local Muslim extremist groups who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State group carried out the attacks that also wounded some 500 people.
Other suspects killed themselves by exploding bombs, some with their families, as police and military closed in.
Islamic clerics expressed outrage at the attacks and did not allow the suicide bombers and those who killed themselves to avoid capture to be buried in Islamic burial grounds, having declared that they do not belong to the Muslim faith. Their children were buried with Islamic rituals.