May 18 was Vesak – the most sacred of Buddhist festivals, where we remember the birth, enlightenment and attainment of Nirvana of the Gauthama Buddha. Two weeks ago, (May 5), began the Holy month of Ramadan – which marks the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Mohammad. Two weeks before that, (April 21), was Easter - the most important holy festival for Christians, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The religious potency of this past month is most astounding, almost difficult to contemplate.
We remember Gauthama Buddha,Prophet Mohammad and Jesus Christ as three young men, who, over a 1000 years ago, had the strength and courage to step into their destiny. Together the choices of these three men determined the lives of billions of human beings who then chose to live, love and forgive by their teachings and also several other human beings who chose to hate, hurt and destroy in their name.
- Sri Lanka is currently struggling to contain the potency of these three faiths within her borders
- As we remember the end of the war, let us not forget how the war ended
This tiny island of Sri Lanka is currently struggling to contain the potency of these three faiths within her borders. In the last month, beginning with Easter, running through Ramadan and now marking Vesak, the country has descended into a state of violence, anger and fear among its Christian, Islam and Buddhist communities.
The poignancy of this is almost too much to bear.
However, the poignancy of Sri Lanka today is not only that within a month commemorating three world religions, the people of these religions have moved apart in distrust and fear. The more complete poignancy of our situation is that Sri Lanka is, in fact, a country of four world religions and four main nationalities. And today, May 18, and Vesak Poya, also marks the 10th anniversary of the end of our devastating civil war, through which we all suffered, but within which the suffering of the Tamil community was particularly overwhelming. Tragedy is not always the violence that manifests or the violence that we remember; tragedy is also the violence that we choose to forget.
So today, let us pause a moment to remember not to forget …
As we remember Vesak, let us not forget the end of the civil war. As we remember the end of the war, let us not forget how the war ended. Let us not forget the violence and injustice that we have still not dealt with. As we remember to remember all this, let us not forget that there are people in our country who are not permitted to publicly remember loved ones they lost. Let us not forget how painful this must be. And when we remember that the war is over, let us not forget how quickly it could begin again…
In the last month, beginning with Easter, running through Ramadan and now marking Vesak, the country has descended into a state of violence, anger and fear among its Christian, Islam and Buddhist communities
These days, as we recall the fear and confusion of our childhood around the shock of the beginning of the Civil war; let us not forget that our children are watching us the way we remember watching our parents. Let us not forget that our children will remember, for the rest of their lives, how we choose to behave now. When we remember to raise our walls and install our security cameras, let us not forget that the best protection against hatred is the building of trust between people. Let us not forget that our real goal should be to bring down the walls and remove the cameras. Let us not forget to work towards that. Let us also remember that surveillance and security is a massive profit-making industry that would actively push us to spend more and more money on fortifying ourselves against each other. Let us not forget to always evaluate the urgent against the important.
Similarly, let us remember that calls to boycott businesses and destroy livelihoods are probably more about personal greed than principles. Let us not forget who is profiting from these rallying calls. Let us not forget that a lot of the news we receive through our local media channels are not really news, but propaganda. Let us always remember the political agendas and business interests of these media organizations. Against this, let us never forget the individual journalists of all our communities who have been killed because of the truth they tried to bring us.
We always seem to forget that our politicians betray and divide us. Let us try and never, ever forget that. Let us remember that they will use us and betray us again and again. Let us remember this. Let us remember this always.
Finally… as we remember to gather together to pray for our neighbours of other faiths, let us not forget that they might be praying for us as well. As we remember the lives of persons destroyed for another’s cause, let us not forget the lives that may be destroyed in our name. Let us remember to protect the sacredness of our name. Let us not lend our name to any killing, any hate, any hurt. And let us never forget to remember how we came to be here and to remember that others journey with us. We may carry their lives in our hands, as they may carry ours in theirs. Let us never forget that we may one day need them to remember us.