22 September, 2020

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A Survey Of Major Statements On The Bombings Of Roman Catholic Churches & Hotels

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

The recent series of bombings on Easter Sunday, the biggest feast-day for Christians, has evoked several responses with statements coming into Colombo Telegraph for publication. The Editor has asked me to brief the readership on some of the important or otherwise notable ones. I have chosen 5 without meaning to insult the others which are left out only on grounds of space. The five statements in full are available through the links provided.

A prefatory point I make is that the bombings seem to me not an attack on Christians in general but on Roman Catholics (constituting the largest Christian denomination) in particular. The bomber, as I gather from Batticaloa witnesses, first went to a Roman Catholic Church (St. Mary’s Cathedral) and found the Easter Resurrection mass ended and the crowd dispersed. He then went to the Zion Church close by and detonated there. Zion being a non-Catholic Christian church was coincidental. We may however make the point that the targeted people were largely Tamil, even the churches in Colombo and Negombo having had huge Tamil congregations (or recently assimilated Sinhalese congregations).

This brings me to the statement from a group of Interdenominational Christians from Jaffna. It was a singular occasion where Roman Catholics and other Christians in Jaffna came together to make a common-purpose statement. The others included free churches including Pentecostals. The names on the link give the variegated groups coming together for justice and peace. Being one of the signatories, I was privy to the discussions. A notable feature was the agreement that we all are ambivalent on terrorism. When for example the Sri Lankan army attacked us in Jaffna, we were all angry with the army and felt a little happy that our oppressors were getting it from the LTTE, which was also highlighting the oppression we were subject to.  At the same time, we never liked the murders by the LTTE and its violation of our rights in conscription, especially of children, its robberies (of banks and individual). etc. That ambivalence pervades many of our attitudes to violence. 

The line rejecting the violence of “any actor that takes innocent lives” may be misunderstood to imply that we like non-innocent people to be killed. The important message in the statement is in rejecting violence and calling for no retaliatory measures. An unintended positive consequence of the bombing is that peace-loving people came together to assert these Christian values. The statement ends saying “Our grief is never a call for retribution. Our grief is a call for coexistence.”

Mr. R. Sampanthan’s trilingual statement is short and sweet. He calls for unity, for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and importantly for us to stay together and be strong so that these extremists will not be able to take this country backwards. I read in these words “to take this country backwards” by a long-tested and experienced leader that we should not have another uprising like the one that followed Black July 1983 or the pogrom of Muslims from the Northern Province in 1990.

For us who have been used to peace these past 10 years, the reality of the hydra heads rising up again seems far-fetched but it is very real. For example, the Tellipalai Cancer hospital has some kind of specialized radiation machine, the only one in the Northern Province. The two operators are both Muslim. This was fine all this time. Then suddenly, after the bombing, the rumour is being spread that if the shields around the machine are removed and the machine is switched on, everyone in Jaffna will be stricken by cancer and die. Once started, the rumour spread rapidly. Doctor-Administrators, presumably ignorant, did not deny the story to questioning reporters, and said they had referred the matter to Colombo. They gave vigour to the story asking reporters to keep it secret to prevent panic. 

As an electrical engineer having worked with radiation for oncology, I state carefully and responsibly that the radiation rays are always dangerous but their penetration falls as distance-squared so that the effects will not go beyond a short distance. This story seems a re-enactment of the pogrom of 1990. While Jaffna hospital is guarded by the police, the rumour has resulted in 25 soldiers being posted to Tellipalai today, Wednesday 24 April.

Another important statement is that by the Tamil Women’s Action Network. It is important, not least because T-WAN is led by Shreen Saroor, an articulate Muslim lawyer. Not surprisingly she told me that she is ashamed to be a Muslim. This is in contrast to Christian Ministers, especially the most affected Roman Catholic priests, evincing the forgiving character demanded by Jesus Christ. While we assert that not all Muslims are to be held accountable for these dastardly bombings by a few, Shreen as a Muslim is holding herself responsible. Well, she is wrong, grievously wrong. Her guilt perhaps is one of the worst outcomes of the bombings, which I think afflicts many good and thoughtful Muslims like her.

In its statement, T-WAN describes what happened, condemns it and calls for justice. T-WAN asserts that Islam is against the murder of innocent persons and rejects such violence. It describes the ample warnings the government had and calls for explanations as to government’s inaction. T-WAN reminds the government and media of the need to protect the people from the effects of hate-speech and calls for a greater role for women in uniting the different communities, peace-building and working against hate-crimes like this.

The statement from FUTA, the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations, is important simply because it is from FUTA which can influence our large university community. The statement regretfully reflects on taking peace and justice for granted, and urges our coming together, seeing hope in the long lines of people coming forward to donate at the blood bank. While that shows the willingness of people to help those at the receiving end of violence, the greater significance in the FUTA statement is its call to the government to be honest and its “appeal to all students, teachers, non-academic staff and administrators to come together and stand against violence and extremism in all its forms within and outside our universities.”

Last but not least is the statement by NCASL, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. For those who do not know, unlike the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist Churches and the Church of South India (which too is Anglican but came to us via India) the Evangelical Churches tend to form stand-alone parishes (with loose alliances among like-minded parishes like NCASL), and they play down the authority of church tradition and history and claim to rely only on the Bible. Contrary to popular myth, the difference is not a commitment to evangelize the world which commitment all churches share but not all with equal enthusiasm). Because of misstatements in Colombo Telegraph Comments misunderstanding the words evangelism, evangelical, evangelicalism and evangelist, I urge the more interested reader to refer to more formal sources.

Besides for prayer and coming together in love, peace and forgiveness, to diffuse tensions and strengthen bonds between communities, NCASL calls for no retribution and emphasizes this through repetition: “We denounce any attempts to create further tensions through reprisal attacks on communities” and then repeats this down a few lines by calling us “to join hands together as one, act responsibly and ensure that the violence does not spill over in any form or manner.”

Whether by religious organizations or secular ones, all statements emphasize solidarity with victims, justice, non-seeking of vengeance and the eschewing of retaliatory violence.

Amen to that.

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Latest comments

  • 18
    4

    It’s time for the Yahapalana Government and the President take responsibility for not preventing the deadly bombing.
    They had the warnings and did not take action.
    Let us ALL request the Speaker of the Parliament to take over from M Sirisena and run a temporary GoSL until a new Election for the President and then have Parliamentary Elections.
    Those with pending criminal cases not allowed to contest

    • 7
      1

      Naman.. This is the Best & Most sensible suggestion so far. Why do we citizens have to upkeep a Pack Of Lairs, & Parasites who are not even honest enough to accept their failures.
      However remember another election Should not be ” Old Garbage in a new Bin “
      they All should be replaced with Educated Honest Persons, suitable for the post.

    • 4
      2

      Hello Naman,

      There is absolutely no basis for the speaker to run the country. There needs to be elections and the starting point is Provincial Council Elections. Yahapalana Government is totally scared of elections.
      RW cannot plead innocence after dismantling the security apparatus. He is more culpable than anybody else for playing politics with the well proven and established security apparatus. RW plays dirty politics in the pursuit of minority vote and now we see the outcomes.

    • 3
      1

      You all are wrong but I am only correct so follow me (Exclusivism).
      You all are correct however I am only more correct so follow me (Inclusivism).
      We all are wrong in certain matters let us correct and we all are correct definitely in certain matters lets live together (Pluralism).
      Where we stand? How we analyse? What we expect? When we will come together to assure life beyond our so called labels? Why religious are values not in practice and more divisions among us?
      The time has come to realize that we all became to the state of victims due to our own contribution towards the destruction of this cosmos where we exists. World history clearly shows that how continued this killing business with rebukes and betrayals beyond all our labels for narrow selfish pseudo survivals. Mighty is right in our so called sustainable development agenda.
      We are in a situation of taking decisions to maintain our so called comfort zones which never ever can exist. By and large survival in the midst of history of ‘Bi Polar, Uni Polar and Multi Polar’ and its domination mechanisms along with consequences is a fact which cannot negate. Resistance of global super powers is very much in the sense of relativity (not only in exclusively in Asia) which openly or hidden influence to engage in the sphere of political social economical religious components. Power dynamics made many to become spectators to worship Mammon for all so called religious atheist and agonists.
      All kind of extremisms including religious extremism is a threat to the existence of cosmos beyond human or beings only world view.
      We have no other option that becoming conscious of our true chaotic situations throughout the world including Sri Lanka and Asia. Secondly we should identify the operation mechanisms of global super powers along with the powers of resistance and their agents which is not life affirming. Thirdly we have to facilitate and become nucleus groups of basic human communities to affirm life globally with home.

    • 1
      1

      Dr. Hoole, I think, this is a good article that has explored the current thoughts that go with the victimised community. The one of the puzzles in this gruesome attack made on the innocent people is that, why did they choose Catholics or Christians for that matter????? and the govt., narrative and the mass media which are infamous for spreading hate and misinformation about the minorities, for years, especially against the Tamils and the Muslims, raising fear on the Missing Person’s office, Islamophobia, pro-racist, and twisting Wilpattu story…are pushing the “This is a retaliation for the New Zealand attack-theory!!!!!!!????$$$$…. something really strange and sinister. If you see in Derana, Daily Mirror, Lankadeepa, Divaina, Hiru, Gossip TV, Lanka C News, Mawbima etc., the same kind of THEORY is promoted for some strange reason. NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardent immediately rejected the idea of SL govt., and the Derana Media that its a reaction to NZ attack. Is Derana so much smarter than the NZ intelligence. There is this Sinhala Buddhist Racism backing machinery hijacking the news reporting and twisting it into their favour, to credit the Gota campaign. The untold side of this crime is the hidden Zionist hand which is trying to use the same tactic they used in Syria, Iraq and other places. Before they enter any nation, they create this kind of fear psychosis using it as an excuse, in the guise of helping, take a foothold in that land.

  • 3
    1

    am ashamed to say these ruthless killerss belong to the muslim community BUT they are not muslims .the manner they killed was from satan evil heartless cruel
    we have to bear the brunt of their evil nature as we are muslims too
    we are heartbroken as we are all human and we have no right to kill
    we sincerly apologize and condole with all who lost their beloved.its not easy to forgive
    why are their muslim representatives.they should have been vigilant and watched and supported the government if there was lawlessness or any one creating hatred by breaking statues
    and causing harm in the country

  • 11
    0

    Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole,
    “We may however make the point that the targeted people were largely Tamil, even the churches in Colombo and Negombo having had huge Tamil congregations (or recently assimilated Sinhalese congregations).”

    Can you please tell how to distinguish an assimilated Sinhalese from a Sinhalese and who is a Tamil?
    ——-
    Is it necessary to separate dead and injured people as Tamils, Sinhalese, Malay, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists. They are all human beings. Man, get out of that cheap racist mentality.

  • 0
    0

    Thanks, Prof. Hoole.
    .
    I’m sure that even you can’t keep track of all the comments, opinions and theories that are flying around, but most of what I’ve seen appear to be responsible and well-founded.
    .
    On the other hand, it is possible that guys like us automatically filter out the rubbish that is dangerous. So we don’t know Also, it is possible that what I see when I google is different from what you see because of the very sophistication of Google Search gives us what we want, and thus keeps us ignorant of dangerous trends.

  • 0
    1

    As I mentioned the common citizens and above said organizations are acting responsibly with genuine concerns for the country and people as a whole. The irresponsible ones are the President, PM, Defence authority, Rajapaksas and other crooked politicians. They have wilfully collaborated with the terrorist in causing this massacre. One shithead had the audacity to tell media today “we were aware and were expecting some minor incidents and did not realize, it will be of this nature”??????? Can anyone with intact senses please explain this answer not to me but to the deceased and the victims.

  • 1
    1

    MEA CULPA
    SHREEN SAROOR has informed me that she is a women’s rights activist and not a lawyer. Also, Tamil-WAN works democratically with no one named as Head.

    • 1
      1

      Yes, Ratnajeevan.

      In fact I was surprised that you even named Shreen in connection with that statement because, as far as I know, it was issued under the name of the organisation, not under anyone’s name. I think you should have respected that.

      Manel Fonseka

      • 0
        1

        Ms. Manel Fonseka,
        I have apologised. Why are you so worked up as to send the same comment twice?
        Now that you seem so upset, let me explain that the statement did not have a letterhead and came to me as a forwarded mail from Editor of CT as sent to him by Shreen.

  • 3
    3

    Radical the news outlets you mentioned are actually propaganda machines of criminal politicians. MS and Rajapaksas together enabled this massacre for political gains. Now that the plan has been executed their propaganda machines have taken over. They will keep on brainwashing until their goals are achieved. The information on this radical group was provided as early as in 2018. What has Christchurch has to do with it????? A tragedy is exploited to cause another, for the right timing, so that it will be difficult to dispute.

  • 1
    0

    Yes, Ratnajeevan.

    In fact I was surprised that you even named Shreen in connection with that statement because, as far as I know, it was issued under the name of the organisation, not under anyone’s name. I think you should have respected that.

    Manel Fonseka

  • 4
    1

    Root cause analysis anyone?

    Five questions:

    1. Why did this happen? Radicalized Extremist Muslim Terrorists.
    2. Why were they radicalized? Events happening far from our shores, Iraq etc, but also failure to protect Muslims on our part.
    3. Why were these events hapenning ? One was this bloodthirst the West has for oil, the other for the government not taking seriously the need to protect minorities.
    4. Why has the West such a thirst for oil, and the control of it?
    5. Why are the resources of the world so controlled by a few powerful countries, with wars fought over them?

    The root cause is people, greedy, blooducking imperialist colonianlist pigs.

    That is my two cents.

    • 0
      0

      Learned Intellectuals, remember
      Occam’s. Razor ?
      Please apply.
      The worm will eventually turn!
      William of Occam

  • 1
    0

    The way things are progressing within SriLankan, specially among Sinhalese bhudhist communities is alarming very bad signals that make me shame.

    While knowing very well the attack was masterminded by abroad and with the direct or indirect support of local agents such as politicians and nothing to do with ordinary Muslims.

    But Muslims are discriminated by hospital doctors demanding to remove the showl completely as if every Muslim mother or sister who come to hospital to take medicine or to see there relatives. Even though we assumed those doctors as highly talented people, with knowledge of sociology and psychology, their basic understanding of not to punish the innocent by harassing them and forcing them a different dress code of doctors choice by making use of the terrorist attacks is a shocking observation these days.

    When these medical doctors play such a duty demand in innocent people, how are we going to blame low castes mobs used by bbs to incite violence..

    If SriLanka is not having minority communities such as Christians, Hindus and Muslim there is no doubt these Sinhalese will fight among their casts.

    When I see our community educated elites racist behavior, I think we may need another 1000 years to reach the maturity of Christians in this country who realized that the attack was doctored by abroad or and politicians and not by Muslim community of SriLanka..

    Shame on us

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