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Chinese funds for Tewatta Basilica: CSM responds to Cardinal

20 August 2015 07:23 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In a continuing dispute over the renovation of the Tewatta Basilica by the controversial Chinese company, the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) yesterday sent a letter to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo.  Excerpts from the letter:

“With regard to your recent statement to the country’s Catholic community regarding the renovation of the Tewatta Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka by the China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), builders of the Colombo Port City. 

It was clear you have not known or had ignored the view points of others, who have expressed deep concern regarding the involvement of the Chinese company, a company which is not only blacklisted by the World Bank but also “notorious for violating international regulations”. You seem to dismiss our opposition by referring to us as “a few people”.  As you have stated your opinion, we felt it necessary to state ours.  

From your statement it appears that your pre-occupation is to find the finances. It does not seem to matter from where it comes. 

This seems to indicate that you are less keen to subscribe to the Ethical Code for fundraising and accountability, which the Catholic Social Teaching has always insisted on and that which is reiterated by Pope Francis by his criticism of wealth earned by some through immoral ways such as sale of weapons, drug trafficking and destruction of the environment. 

It is unfortunate that you as the Archbishop, ignore the Church’s moral and social teachings, worse still, the concerns of the recent Papal encyclical Laudato Si, and take a decision on an important matter focusing solely on financial factors, maintaining a blind eye to the ethical, humane and social concerns related to the issue.    

Although the signatories to our first petition were “few” we can safely assure they represent the views of hundreds of others, particularly those who suffer from the impact of the Colombo Port City Project. 

We are aware that the fisherfolk along the coastal belt suffer the loss of livelihoods due to the destruction of fish breeding grounds and sea erosion caused mainly by the construction of the Colombo Port City. 

Even before the Presidential Election on January the 8, the fisherfolk in hundreds demonstrated in the streets of Negombo expressing their strong opposition to the Colombo Port City project. 

Another massive demonstration was held on the March 3 to demand a closure of the project by hundreds of fishermen, the clergymen and women and the laity who are more alert to the sufferings of people.  

At the People’s Tribunal too, held at the Public Library, at which about 500 people gathered, fishermen, people from the interior, affected by the blasting of rocks, environmentalists, lawyers and professionals gave evidence as to what a harmful project this Chinese company and the government of Sri Lanka were engaged in.  

Thus, it should be said again that although only a ‘few’ signed the petition, they represented the views of hundreds or thousands of others. Moreover, it is only a numerically small group which articulates the issue but they stand on strong moral, intellectual and spiritual grounds.  As such, the few who oppose your move are not an “irresponsible” or “imprudent” lot, as referred to, in your statement. 

The petition of the CSM did not any way deny the need for the renovation of the Basilica. The CSM acknowledges that repairs are essential. Neither do we accuse you of the acceptance of Chinese funds or that it was done with any ulterior intention. However, we do say that our Christian soul should not be betrayed to those Chinese companies operating here with ulterior motives. 

We all wonder why the Church leadership did not pause to think why suddenly China has shown special concern for the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka while in China itself, repressive measures have been taken and were being taken on the Christian communities. In Sri Lanka the Chinese government is spending millions of rupees to repair a leaking roof, while back in China it has ordered the removal of crosses from Churches’ roofs. 

Against such a background, we would like to ask why China shows this special concern for the Church. Our presumption is that China wants to cover up by utilising this Chinese Harbour Engineering Corporation, the numerous sins committed in the Colombo Port City Project, with the collaboration of the Church leadership. 

The heart of the Papal Encyclical’s proposals is integral ecology as a new paradigm of justice, an ecology “which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings …nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live” .

The integral perspective also brings the ecology of institutions into play: “if everything is related, then the health of a society’s institutions affects the environment and the quality of human life.”

The Pope also notes that we need Dialogue and Transparency in decision-making

“We need greater transparency to access the environmental impact of business ventures and projects.  

Profit cannot be the sole criterion to be taken into account.  The Pope frequently refers to problems of corruption. “When the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.” 

We reiterate our concern here again: do we need to utilise the funds of a government which is a synonym for persecution of Christians in China, which cares little for religious freedom, and a Chinese company which is known for corruption and inhuman dealings to renovate the Basilica? One would even wonder when we have so many local companies why we should give the contract to a company which has caused many more controversies both abroad and in Sri Lanka. 
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  • Sonali Friday, 21 August 2015 04:22 PM

    First they go ranting about moral issues and then say "Neither do we accuse you of the acceptance of Chinese funds or that it was done with any ulterior intention". What is their problem then? The Christians always have had issues with the Catholics and is using this as an opportunity to have a go at them. So much for religion.


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