The Daily Mirror of December 5 had a full page news feature titled, ‘Violence among Youth –where did we go wrong?’ In it your columnist Kamanthi Wickremesinghe had listed several gruesome killings which had occurred between November 21 and November 25, involving youth. These included the death of a 19-year-old youth, by stabbing and the strangling of a 22-year-old girl by her lover. The latter incident the strangling had been witnessed by a group of youth who had videoed it and circulated it on social media. This was truly shocking – more so at this time of Christmas.
These incidents were referred to in a Sunday sermon at a church service I attended, where the priest bemoaned the loss of values in our present day society, particularly the respect for human life. These incidents are so shocking that society is compelled to wake up and to take note.
In our own land we have lived through many years of internecine violence. This violence both experienced and witnessed in our country and those elsewhere, given wide coverage in the electronic and print media has desensitized society to violence and killings and this I believe had adversely affected our youth.
In the DM article, two eminent persons, a university Professor of Criminology and a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, were interviewed and their observations recorded. The former had correctly observed, “We also see that the community doesn’t seem to take any responsibility when crimes take place …. society needs a revival …. the family also don’t consider social values. In school there is no value-based education system but more of an exam-oriented knowledge culture……Both print and electronic media personnel need to be trained before reporting incidents relating to crime”
The Consultant Psychiatrist too had wise words of advice to parents and to schools. He said, “Parents need to have regular conversations with their children and discuss how to deal with situations without resorting to violence.”
In addition to the role of the parents and schools, there is a third element not mentioned therein, – and that is the role by the various religions in the upbringing of our youth and the attendant imparting of ethical values. It is important to note that places of worship and religious leaders have a great responsibility today, to stress the value of life, particularly human life and the need to settle matters peacefully without resorting to violence. I could not find any reference to this third element, ie., the role of religion –in the interview.
This is the season of Christmas, when the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the son of God is celebrated worldwide. It is appropriate to note that Jesus in his “Sermon on the mount,” reversed the former Judaic teaching of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. Jesus preached, “…but I say unto you that whosoever smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (St. Mathew’s Gospel Ch.5 – New Testament). It is known that Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, was greatly influenced by the teachings of Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’
I believe that the four great religions in our land, teach the importance of living in peace and harmony, in society though most regrettably much violence has been done in the name of these very religions throughout history in many lands, by misguided people, misquoting and misinterpreting scripture. Even the saintly Mahatma was assassinated by a religious zealot. It is therefore very important that religious leaders of all faiths propagate the true teachings of their respective religions – particularly among our youth on living peacefully and righteously, in a spirit of live and let live. May this be a message for us all at this Christmas Season of Peace and Goodwill.
Our country was engulfed in political uncertainty and a breakdown in governance since October 26. We need to be thankful that a seven-Judge Supreme Court Bench delivered an historic judgement upholding the Rule of Law, and Accountability.
We pray that sanity and goodwill will prevail and that our leaders will act with responsibility and with integrity in the True spirit of Christmas.