Fr. Oscar Abayaratne’s vision for an all religions solidarity alliance
In 2018, Sri Lanka was rated as the best country in the world to visit
Love your Enemies and pray for those who persecute you
We call for a return to spirituality and a trek back to the sources
At the end of 2018, a communiqué from the reliable tourism organization ‘Trip Advisor’ rated Sri Lanka as the best country in the world to visit. As Sri Lankans, who love their country, we felt proud of our Motherland. We also feel ashamed that we have not paid adequate attention to exploring the variety that is inherent to our Motherland with regard to its natural beauty, its rich history and the variety of its cultures.
Easter Sunday’s horrific events have plunged us into a state of shock. Ten years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka we have once again been forced to think about the safety of our lives when we move out of our places of residence. Why! Why does this keep happening to us in Sri Lanka?
As those, who were born in the 1950s, our memories of the 1958 events linger in our minds, when we saw the shops owned by our Tamil brethren go up in flames during the anti-Tamil riots. Again in 1971, we were shocked by the Janatha Vimiukthi Peramuna revolt when misguided and radicalized youth took up arms against the government of the day. About 12 years later, in July 1983, darkness once more enveloped our land when at the alleged instigation of politicians in power, their cohorts unleashed terror on the Tamils and their properties. The author, who as a medical officer working at the Colombo National Hospital, saw his Tamil colleagues running into the Hospital for safety. The thirty year uncivil war began from that day.
Again in 1989, another JVP insurrection was brutally suppressed, resulting in the killings of thousands of people mainly youth. We also lost a number of renowned personalities, including academics, senior administrators and popular artistes.
The war with the LTTE continued for 30 years and was brought to an end in May 2009. Since then we have been enjoying a peaceful era. But that has been once again shattered by Sri Lankan youth indoctrinated by an international terrorist organization calling itself the IS. The youth blew themselves up inside three Christian churches, three hotels and two other places, killing more than 250 people and injuring about 500.
But due to the awe-inspiring response by the Christians to this horrendous event, the anticipated backlash on Muslims did not happen. The Christians under the leadership of their priests -- outstanding among them being Colombo’s Archbishop, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith -- stood tall witnessing to their faith in Jesus Christ who responded with love to the hatred that was directed against Him. “Love your Enemies and pray for those who persecute you” was the clarion call, to which the Christian faithful responded as one. As a Christian we say with thanksgiving: “We have been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord”. It is said, “To err is human; To forgive is divine”. We have been saved and raised up to claim divine sonship; Jesus has won for us the right to call God Our Father.
As Christians we are requested, called upon and encouraged to sow with tears with the sure hope that we will reap with songs of joy. The psalmist says:
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5-6)
We had the opportunity to listen to some tourists who decided to stay on despite the recent events in Sri Lanka. They were praising the hospitality of the Sri Lankan people, their friendliness, their tasty food and other qualities. Then there were the speeches by senior leaders of other countries expressing their horror at what happened in Sri Lanka and saying that they will still encourage tourists from their countries to continue visiting Sri Lanka as a sign of their solidarity.
So it seems we are already beginning to gather in the harvest. But we need to continue sowing seeds of righteousness through religious and racial harmony ensuring that there will never be a repetition of events such as these.
How do we set about this tremendously important task? First of all and most importantly consider what happened on Easter Sunday 2019 as an opportunity to unite as one Sri Lankan people. And then work together to discover and bring about the true potential and the universal mission entrusted to Sri Lanka.
At this juncture we would like to share with you papers I, II and III presented to the membership of the Kithu Dana Pubuduwa and a few Peoples’ Organizations as a basis for a dialogue to come up with an agreed upon work plan presented by our founder, Rev. Fr. Siri Oscar Abayaratne as far back as 2002. This was in response to the situation Sri Lanka faced at that time. We feel that the content is relevant to the present situation and is the need of the hour.
A VISION FOR PEOPLES’ POWER
Where there is no vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). Our country needs a vision, lest we perish. Who or which should provide such a vision for the future of our land? Sri Lanka has here and now become a battleground for fabricated realities. We suggest a return to the “liberative-core” of our cherished and ancient religions. The term “liberative-core” is used purposely. Religions, since the days of the founders or say the beginnings, have been all too often reduced by man in his smallness, to mere enslaving ideologies. Ideologies by their very nature are far removed from the Really-Real. Further, they can provide the fuel and the impetus, for the great seekers of the three P’s -- Power, Prestige and Possessions. The “liberative-core”, call it the “core-reality”, however so much distant it may sound, has to be resurrected consciousness wise or to be rediscovered. It is our firm belief that Transcendent Truth stands as the bottom-line of our religions. They can provide the basis for and the ultimate norm to measure rectitude, be it in the political, social, cultural, and economic and even of religious fields. Sri Lanka can and should in its very smallness and spiritual depths be a shining light to other Asian countries, if not to the rest of the world. Sri Lanka is in crisis, and crisis can be the womb for a new conception and a new birth and paradoxically though, its hour and its opportunity. Sri Lanka can and would assuredly rise from the ashes of bomb blasts, divisions, strife, factionalism, ethnicism, racism, corrupt grossest politicization and crass individualism. We call for a return to spirituality. We call for a trek back to the sources. We shall on this journey discover the vision for the future – a vision that can brighten the eyes and faces of Lanka’s beloved sons and daughters. The Sri Lankan of whatever hue, colour, race or religion is at the roots a good human being. He or she would respond positively to not mere good moral imperatives but to the call from the depths – What might here sound as idealistic piffle to the pragmatic is for us the most realistically real. Sri Lanka, we reiterate, the resplendent isle, can and should be the beacon light to a world of the future. Buddhists, please come. Hindus, do come. Muslims come. Christia
ns come. Let us talk over the how and the where-from. Do come and let the “Great Teachers” lead the way. The Enlightened One – you are a special invitee. Sri Lankans revere you.
1. Each religious group: Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians to formulate the core Spirituality and a Strategy for committed living within their religious persuasion.
2. Arrive at a formulation of what could be accepted by the four religious groups as ‘liberative’ for all, be it personal or communal, with a view to move towards a vision for a New Sri Lanka. It would be important to spell out an Action program for concrete implementation.
3. The committed adherents of different political ideologies, admittedly of strong conflicting positions, out of disinterested love for the country, list the basic demands that could be accepted by the opposing camps.
4. The supposedly uncompromisingly divided Sinhala, Tamil groups do likewise.
For immediate action
1. Scrapping of the Executive Presidential system of government
2. A commission in view of free and just parliamentary/presidential elections
3. Establishment of institutions to restore balance in the power structures with special reference to the Judiciary, Police and Public service.