COLOMBO, Jan 13, 2015 (AFP) - Pope Francis urged "respect for human rights" in Sri Lanka and called for the "pursuit of truth" after a long civil war as he arrived Tuesday on the island for the first papal visit in two decades.
"The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth," he said in a speech at Colombo airport.
"The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society."
Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka Tuesday, bearing a a message of peace and reconciliation among different faiths on the war-torn island as he began a two-nation Asia tour.
His visit, days after the surprise election of a new president, will focus on unity in a country still struggling to heal the wounds of a decades-long civil war that pitted government troops against Tamil separatist rebels.
The Argentine pope's second visit to Asia will also take in the Philippines, a bastion of Christianity in the region, where he is set to attract one of the biggest gatherings ever for a head of the Catholic Church.
But in mostly Buddhist Sri Lanka, which has seen a rise in religious violence in recent years, he will focus on the role of the Catholic Church in a diverse society.