It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes
In a way, it is a stroke of irony that His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, had to end up seeking justice from the international community, the UN affiliated ‘western establishment’ in particular, with regard to the Easter Sunday bombings. It was the very same Cardinal, who in his homily at the Annual Feast of the St. Matthew’s Church, Ekala in September 2018, denounced ‘those western countries’ and the Human rights regime they represented calling it a ‘secular religion’. In fact, the Cardinal asked in no unequivocal terms ‘monavada me manawa himikam? (What are these human rights?) I along with my family, being parishioners of the church, was attending the Holy Mass and in fact, a few feet away from the Cardinal when he uttered those historic words. Of course, it was obvious which camp in the political divide would benefit from such utterances. It was a time when the Yahapalna government was under flack from nationalist elements on the US sponsored UNHRC resolution 30/01, and other measures such as the establishment of the Office on the Missing Persons which sought to look into and award redress for the disappearances during civil conflict. In any event, by that time the Cardinal was being seen as a pro-Rajapaksa loyalist by many, Catholics as well as non-Catholics.
That was pre-Easter Sunday Attacks. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Cardinal Ranjith played an exemplary role; unmatched by any other, in averting a blood bath, despite some of the racist and chauvinistic elements in the political spectrum, attempting to instigate a pogrom, the Black July-type, against the Muslims, who bore the brunt of the outrage among the Sinhalese, after Fundamentalist Islamic Radicals carried out coordinated suicide attacks on April 21, the Easter Sunday morning of 2019. The Cardinal’s conduct during that highly volatile period deserved unequivocal praise, to the extent that there was general consensus that if the Cardinal had contested, he could have become the President by a record margin!
Then came the political fallout of the attacks, as it became clear that the Prime Minister and the President of the Yahapalana government, who were at loggerheads by that time, were guilty of negligence, along with higher officials of the defense and security apparatus. It was here the Cardinal came out all guns blazing to denounce the yahapalana government, justifiably. He did not simply attack the government for its inability and inaction, but went so far as to demand that the government step down, giving power to those who could take action. The insinuation would not have been missed by a Kindergarten child. Everything the Cardinal said and did, was to the advantage of the Rajapaksa camp, whether he intended it or not. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, merely days after the attack, had expressed ambition to run for Presidency. In fact, a few days ago, when a journalist posed a question that the Cardinal was instrumental in bringing in a Rajapaksa Regime to power, the Cardinal’s response was that it was wrong to conclude so, on the basis that he criticized the former government. Interestingly, His Eminence did not deny, that his conduct was instrumental in the ascent of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to power.
Attacks on churches has a long history
On many occasions, the Cardinal had denied the prevalence of religious intolerance and thuggery carried out by Buddhist extremist groups, hand in glove with the Rajapaksas and their political aspirations. When in June 2017, Lawyer and human rights activist Lakshan Dias, came out with staggering figures of churches and places of worship belonging to minority religions that had been attacked and the faithful threatened and intimidated, the Cardinal came on national TV to denounce any knowledge of ‘catholic churches’ thus attacked. Firstly, the most influential religious leader in Sri Lanka excluded other faiths and religions as irrelevant to him when their right to worship was concerned. The non-Catholic denominations, free churches mainly, were so affronted and hurt by the abandoning of their cause, by the more influential Christian Leader in the country, a ‘big brother’ of sorts with more muscle than them. Secondly, despite the Cardinal’s denial, the list published by Lakshan Dias remained unchallenged, with every place and incident listed being well documented as attacks and acts of intimidation of Buddhist extremism. Hundreds of police complaints, inquires, Magistrate Court cases and even Fundamental Rights cases bore witness to the claim. Cardinal did not have much time for fundamental rights back then, including the right to propagate one’s religion. Zahran Hashim was not the first to attack churches, not by a long stretch!
"Cardinal Ranjith played an exemplary role; unmatched by any other, in averting a blood bath, despite some of the racist and chauvinistic elements in the political spectrum, attempting to instigate a pogrom, the Black July-type, against the Muslims"
With the present government that came to power with the indignation caused over the Easter Sunday attacks, the Cardinal seemed to have been disappointed with the slow progress the investigations are making. Moreover, many influential priests of the Catholic Church have been outspoken about the deliberate undermining of investigations and a ‘grand conspiracy’ behind the attacks that goes beyond Zahran Hashim or Naufer Moulavi. The Cardinal does not say so directly, but the insinuation is clear as the Cardinal has repeatedly alluded to the remarks of the former Attorney General Dappula de Livera, about such a conspiracy.
One thing is clear: Cardinal Ranjith realizes finally, that there will be no unravelling of the ‘Grand Conspiracy’ by this government or even a next, domestically. Any justice therefore, has to be sought from the international community. United Nations Human Rights Council that met two days ago, it its 48th Session will be the most important forum that, at this point would deliberate on this issue. There is word that the communiqué sent by the Cardinal to his Holiness Pope Francis has been considered and the Vatican wishes to push the drive for truth through Geneva.
At long last, the Cardinal has realized that the ‘western ‘organizations which he belittled, are there for a reason; that there are instances when justice is not done domestically. That Human rights with the duty for accountability of governments in Banana Republics, more often than not, can be enforced only through international pressure. The much-hyped visit to Italy by none other than the former President and present PM Mahinda Rajapaksa with Foreign Minister G. L. Pieris is a sign that the Government, despite all bravado, is shaking from the knees with the prospect of mounting international pressure.
Justice from Geneva
Not only the Christians and the Catholics, but all peace loving and civilized people in Sri Lanka and outside, are behind His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith at this juncture. We too, rally round him in solidarity in seeking justice for the victims of the most murderous attack on a place of worship in recent times.
Yet, we wish to very humbly remind His Eminence the Cardinal that ‘Human Rights’ do matter. That international organizations which His Eminence decried as ‘western scheming’ and a ‘Secular religion’, do come in handy when you have nowhere to go.
The Cardinal has nowhere to go now. We all swear our allegiance, as Catholics, to our Shepherd at this crucial time in this gut-wrenching search for justice.
So naïve are those who trust in Princes!