The attack on a mosque in Grandpass on Saturday- the day after the Muslim community celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr-- and the night-long police curfew declared to defuse the high tension, once again underlines the need for the leaders of all religions to act urgently and effectively to bring about an inter-religious dialogue at the highest level.
Last Saturday’s calamity came just 10 days after the Weliweriya horror where people asking for clean water were attacked and has led to a flashpoint among some religions. It would be a catastrophe for Sri Lanka if religious violence or riots come in the aftermath of a bloody 30-year war over an ethnic conflict.
" If they do not do this the people will throw them out—with their corruption and nepotism, selfishness, Swiss bank accounts and all "
True religion and the practice of it lead to inner spiritual liberation from selfishness, self-centredness, greed and related vices like violence, bitterness, revenge and jealousy. The gradual inner liberation transforms the vices into virtues and produces fruitful characteristics such as love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, humility and a spirit of forgiveness.
It is in such a spirit that the leaders of all religions need to immediately enter into an ongoing dialogue based on some time-tested principles of conflict-resolution. The first step or principle is a paradigm shift or change of perception. We all need to come to the awareness that our mental perception of any issue is always relative and never absolute. Our small minds know only a part of the picture in any situation. Anyone who believes that he or she has the absolute picture on any issue is apparently suffering from some mental imbalance.
If all religious leaders come into a dialogue in such a spirit they would be able to reach some accommodation or consensus on the middle path, which is hallowed specially in the Buddha Dhamma. This would pave the way for religious leaders to come to a win-win solution instead of the win-lose competition that the selfish world promotes. The win-win solution would bring about a situation where 1 plus 1 makes not 2 but 3—meaning something new and something beautiful would be found by all.
While the religions leaders begin and hold a regular dialogue on bringing about religious unity in diversity they need to also guide the people and lead them in a manner where while practising the teachings of their religions, they learn to respect the faith and beliefs of others. The religious leaders could also bring about united action by people of all religions on issues relating to social justice, learning to live in a simple and humble way and to bring about a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources. When this happens we will not have wars or violence but cooperate in building a beautiful Sri Lanka, where we see religious and racial unity in diversity. If the religious leaders set this example then our political leaders—most of whom are now bluffing, blundering and plundering the wealth of the country—would have no option but to transform their lives and become servants of the people and leaders who come to give to the country and not grab from it. If they do not do this the people will throw them out—with their corruption and nepotism, selfishness, Swiss bank accounts and all.