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Will our religious leaders take up this call?

( January 28, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As if the violence and savagery this country has gone through over the years is not enough, certain disgruntled elements have, over the past few weeks, been going around the country rousing communal feelings over issues that are matters of individual choice. Certain sections of the clergy too have been backing these elements, perhaps without considering the seriousness of the issue.

There have also been calls that the law relating to marriages be amended to allow the Buddhists of this country to enter into five marriages so that the Sinhala race could remain dominant.

In short, this is hate-mongering, which brings out the entrenched feelings of hate in the minds of certain people of this country, which is unfortunately backed by a section of the monks, who also claim to follow the teachings of the Enlightened One. This is the latest to emerge following the impeachment drama enacted over the last three months, over which consensus has still to be reached, despite official ceremonies being held to install the new CJ.

The issue relating to the National Anthem is again caused by intolerance and hate, and the need to subjugate people of another ethnicity. This has been the major cause of all the problems the country has faced. The National Anthem, the original version of which is in Sinhala, has been sung in Tamil, in areas populated by Tamils, a practice that has been followed since the Anthem was officially adopted as far back as 1951. The National Anthem has now been reconstituted with verses in Tamil, which no right thinking person would have any objection to.

The popular song Lowe Sama, which has been written on this basis and is meant to promote peace and harmony among the people is being sung by everyone with feeling and pride. The smiles on the faces of those who sing this song indicate the connectivity it evokes. So there is no reason why the National Anthem cannot be like this song, because the National Anthem evokes patriotism, respect for the country and the feeling that we are proud to be a part of this country.

In a few more days Sri Lanka will be celebrating its 65th Independence Day. The high and the mighty will issue messages exhorting the value of being citizens of a country that is really ‘independent.’ But the problem is those who issue these messages or read out messages on this solemn occasion seem to follow the ‘I preach, you listen’ mentality, because in normal life they do not seem to follow what they preach.

It is in this context that the Pastoral Letter issued by the Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, to his flock last Wednesday assumes importance. In the letter the Head of the Anglican Church has called on communicants as a Church, to take an honest look at themselves, especially in instances where they have shamelessly compromised their loyalty to God; been silent when they should have spoken; allowed themselves to be used by those in authority to speak lies or commit wrong and unjust acts; conscientiously received benefits as rewards for injustice committed against others, and called for a Day of Lament to be observed on 3 and 4 February to repent for these acts of ‘commission and omission’ on their part in the face of rampant injustice, intimidation and violence.

Bishop Dhiloraj’s letter is really a call to his flock for a period of self-examination and penitence to repent for their failings through a period of silence, prayer and intercessions and to grieve for the state of our country today, where there is a serious breakdown of law and order, accountability and most of all the absence of decency.

The Bishop’s call is timely, for it is not only a call to his flock, but a call to every individual in this country. It will be good if our Congress of Religions could take up this call and make similar calls to their followers so that, on the one hand, we would be building a righteous society, while on the other, we will be giving leadership to those who wilt and wither in the face of oppression and injustice and lose their conscience to stand up for justice.

( Ceylon Today Editorial)

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