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Catholic Social Justice Activist honored

| by Kingsley Karunaratne

( September 5, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A commemorative stamp in honor of Rev. Fr. Tissa Balasuriya O.M.I., Social Justice Activist and founder of Centre for Society & Religion, was issued on Thursday, August 29th at the CSR auditorium, Deans Road, Colombo. Several distinguished guests including Rev.Fathers,Rev. Sisters, laity and members of the civil society organizations participated in this ceremony to mark the 89 Birthday of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya. The occasion was chaired by Rev.Fr. Rohan Silva, the Provincial Superior of O.M.I. congregation. The welcome speech was done by Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephen O.M.I., Director, CSR who explained the future vision of Fr. Tissa. A short documentary film elaborating the vision of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya was next shown.

The commemorative address was given by Former UN Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayathilaka. While commenting on Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, he said that Fr. Tissa was honored by the government of Sri Lanka for his yeomen service rendered to the country having a clear vision pertaining the country. He needed to change the country for the good of the marginalsed and the down trodden masses. He always tried to implement the ‘Jesus Chinthana’ (Vision of Jesus). He was a strong follower of Jesus and so championing on social justice. He was a humble man, never lived a comfortable life but lived a simple life setting an example to others.

I reiterate that the CSR founded by him, was greatly influential in gaining me the high standard of education and intelligence. Actually the service he had done could be named as ‘Tissa Balasuriya Intellectual operation’. I was introduced to Fr. Tissa Balasuriya by my father, Mr. Mervin Silva who was the then Editor of Daily News, a Lake House group newspaper.

During 1969-1971 period, an American magazine had mentioned about Fr. Tissa Balasuriya as a true Intellectual and true spiritual man who lived and served as an exemplary model of Jesus. He questioned the established norms and worked in support of the 1976 Railway Strike against the social injustice. During Impeachment, his blessings were given to Ex-Chief Justice.

When he was on demonstrations, he never scolds anybody. He was against of social, political and economic exploitation of the society. He worked tirelessly for justice and always worked against the powerful exploiters. He meditated the power of words of god and worked day and night against injustices happening in Sri Lanka.

To express his intellectual operations, we need a separate seminar. It is unfair to name him as an Intellectual of Asian Theology, but surely he is a true international intellectual of Theology.

Today,29th August is his 89th Birthday. However the opinions expressed by him are not materialized yet. Not thinking of a country, a country not centered on people. ’Tissa Balasuriya Chinthana’ (‘Vision of Tissa Balasuriya’) is a resource for everybody but still it is not practicing in the country. He was a man of ethics. One has to question whether development is a genuine development or not? People will not depend only in food or bread. However Jesus provided bread and fish when the need arose.

He believed in Human Socialism. He believed in ethnic and religious harmony. Today nation building is going to be done while attempting to spread hatred among different ethnic groups. No country can prosper with the rule under one ethnic group.Speciality to be given for the suffering working masses. Also often we hear troubles on religious matters. Whether it is ethnic or religious, these are not good signs for a country.

In the name of the country, some are trying to suppress minorities. Some are trying to separate and form another country; others propagate hatred for the minority religions. So how are all these, go in parallel in a country. What is the solution for Rathupaswala Weliveriya incident, who demanded clean drinking water?.

If we devote fully for social justice, we can go against global war practices. At the same time, we cannot forget one injustice and go against another injustice. Our duty is to go forward through social justice even when we come across many challenges. That is the honor we can give our Guru, Fr. Tissa Balasuriya.
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