As we spend the last few days of the remaining year in reflective thought all who can hear the sound of their breathing can consider themselves as ‘winners’.
However painful it is to revisit the past we must for a moment return to April 21 and say a prayer for the dead; those whose lives were taken away by a series of bombings. Our fervent hope is that we’ll never get to see the return of religious extremism.
We went through similar horrifying times between 1983 and 2009 when tiger separatists blew up places of worship, not sparing children and even the unborn nestled within the wombs of pregnant mothers.
The streets were minus the usual decorations on Christmas Day (December 25) and there was a sense of moaning. Sri Lankans aren’t used to staying put at their homes during the festive season. We Sri Lankans are also known to have short memories. But this time around Christians showed us how lessons are learned during adversity. They also showed us how a faith can heal mental and physical wounds when the application of the doctrine is done wholeheartedly.
Non-Christians would be puzzled as to why devotees seeking God were subject to such atrocities. But such queries produced opportunities for reflection and the realisation that these Christians who suffered terribly preferred to embrace the religion stronger rather than question it.
We still fear that religious extremism would raise it head. Experience has taught us that bad can’t be vanquished, but should be made to turn into good. The exercise of rehabilitating tiger rebels who surrendered during the civil war offers a classic example for this.
There should be a programme initiated by the Muslim clergy to put those misguided back on track with proper teaching and guidance. The silence associated with the vanquished must never be mistaken for peace!
The most expensive commodity in the world, peace, can be present only in an environment where two parties to a conflict decide to unload their weapons and make a commitment to create a culture of co-existence.
The Christmas Day messages of the President and Prime Minister were loaded and striking. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said “Let us again dedicate ourselves with determination to create a better society where all human beings will be treated equally”. The Premier said, “The new government of Sri Lanka is committed to the task of dispelling the darkness of religious terrorism”.
The aggressive nature that war embed in us has made us intolerant. People only care about the religion they practise.
Efforts must be taken to educate, starting at a tender age, the importance of learning something about other faiths. Clash of cultures and religions can only be everted this way.
Just months ago we saw tension erupt at a funeral in Mulaitivu when there were differences of opinion between Buddhist priests and locals in the areas who were practising the Hindu faith. The funeral of a deceased monk took place despite the Mulaitivu Court ruling in favour of the Hindu temple. Luckily the tensions simmered and normalcy returned. A possible blood bath was averted.
We are quick to pick up ‘foreign’ theories and put them into practice when making progress in business related matters. But we don’t show the same enthusiasm to implement the ‘high level of courtesy’ those in other countries extend to their fellow countrymen.
We need to get into the shoes of others and see without tainted glasses if we are to make a tolerant society. Learning about other faiths and using our own religions to be better humans would create the base for this. A society committed towards changing for the better will leave no place for