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LET’S PROMOTE RELIGIOUS HARMONY - EDITORIAL

19 July 2019 04:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka’s present generation, comprising the young, must continue with the habit of promoting cultural harmony. The present generation, specially schoolchildren and undergraduates, are seen moving freely with fellow students who belong to different cultures and religions. 
They attend school or campus together and hangout with friends of all races knowing well that some of their friends do have personal choices when it comes to consuming food dressing up for the evening. This culture is prominent among the Colombo folks, but  a fair proportion of broadminded individuals do exist in the outskirts and villages as well.  
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya quite rightly said ‘If we are to save the country we need to end vituperative politics and personal agendas of parties and politicians’. He made these comments when speaking at a ceremony which was organised to mark ‘National Language Day’ under the theme ‘Basa Wadamu-Hada Dinamu’ and held in Colombo. 
The Muslim community has been at the receiving end after the Easter Sunday blasts. Muslim shop owners are faced with a boycott of their their products and businesses by some sections of the Sinhalese majority. This is quite uncalled for because no one has the right to punish a section of the society just because a few members of this community were engaged in terrorist activities. These hate campaigns are initiated by groups heavily influenced by the clergy. 


Recently there was a story which went viral on social media where a schoolchild was reprimanded for bringing to a school a pen because it was made by a company owned by a Muslim. Now here we are talking about schoolchildren who have minds akin to blotting paper. It would not come as a surprise if the child acquires the mind-set of a racist because the seeds of racism were sowed inside the school itself. 


The Easter Bombings made followers of other religions show much compassion towards Christians. Buddhists shed tears along with those who survived the blasts while the dead were being moaned. Buddhist priests were seen visiting destroyed churches and lending a hand in clean up operations. But just a few days ago we saw State Minister of Highways and Road Development Ranjan Ramanayake embroiled in controversy for making a derogatory remark against Buddhist monks. The artiste turned politician is alleged to have said that 90% of monks have been sexually abused by chief incumbents at temples. Ramanayake has his own version of the story and says that he only referred to ‘certain monks clad is saffron robes’. But what critics state is that being a Christian he should not have made accusations against members of another religious order. It would serve Ramanayake well in his journey as a lawmaker if he learns that religion is a sensitive topic and one should check his or her words when speaking in public or giving interview. 


The problem with Sri Lankans is that we don’t make that extra effort to understand another culture or different religion. Our history shows that the Sinhalese did go on the rampage attacking churches when Christian fundamentalists were suspected to have had a hand in the death of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera. The Sinhalese also had their differences with the Muslims when the latter made a claim to a religious site in Kuragala. Just days ago there was tension in Kanniya in Trincomalee when police had to intervene and halt a protest staged by Tamils who showed disapproval against a Dageba (A Buddhist place of worship) being built there. 
There also have been occasions when police have obtained court orders to ban certain Buddhist pageants because they raise tension among communities. 
There have also been pressure on the Muslims to amend their marriage laws. 


We need to find a way to keep religion away from the law so that there can be order in society. 
We need to be sensitive to the needs of those who belong to other communities. We need to spend some time knowing other languages and cultures because a word out of place can cause so much harm. We must learn fast that physical damage can be repaired in a jiffy, but permanent mental wounds can be caused by the acts or words of a person who is considered something of a loose cannon. 


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