The worldwide controversy, violent demonstrations and the killing of the United States Ambassador in Libya over the release of a ridiculously scandalous You-tube film on the life of the Holy Prophet Mohammed underlines the need for effective steps to marginalise extremists and bring about religious unity in diversity.
The sacrilegious low-budget film believed to have been produced by an individual who has a criminal record gives a virtually devilish twist to the Holy Prophet’s life. The film provoked a violent reaction in Cairo where thousands of demonstrators are besieging the US embassy, while in Bengazzi -- the home-base of last year’s Libyan revolution which the US openly supported - US. Ambassador Christopher Stephen was killed during an attack on the Embassy. Demonstrations are also being held in more than ten other Muslim countries.
What is essential for the resolution of such religious or other conflicts is a paradigm shift, a change of our mental perception. We need to come to an awareness that the mental picture we have -- be it on religion or any other issue – is always relative and never absolute. We see only part of the picture. If we believe or delude ourselves into thinking that our perception is the absolute picture, then we are suffering from some mental imbalance which could be dangerous. For instance the dictator Adolph Hitter thought that his perception of an Aryan super-race was absolute. So anyone who did not fit into that picture of Aryan supremacy was first marginalized and then eliminated. That was why at least six million Jews were massacred.
If we believe that our mental perception is relative and not absolute, then we could have a meaningful dialogue and come to some accommodation on the middle path with those whose faith and beliefs are different. While believing and more importantly practising the truths and commandments of our own religions, we also need to respect the faith and beliefs of other religions. When all the truths are put together, we will see a bigger picture if not the whole one. One plus one will make not two but three and behold there will be something new through this virtue of synergy. In Sri Lanka also the people of all four major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam – need to have such a paradigm shift so that we could have a sincere dialogue and come to an accommodation on the middle path.
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith the Archbishop of Colombo is taking exemplary and inspiring steps to bring about religious unity in diversity. He is to advise parish priests and other Catholics to have regular meetings and a sincere dialogue with leaders of other religions. We hope that other religious leaders and even our political leaders will take similar initiatives to bring about an all–religions solidarity alliance to build a new Sri Lanka.