24 October, 2017

Bias In The Dias Affair; A Reflection

By Duleep de Chickera

Bishop Duleep de Chickera

The initial shock at the response of a high ranking minister to comments made by a citizen on a recent talk show, soon shifted to the realisation of its seriousness.

During the show Lakshan Dias, an attorney at law, presented some data on violence against some Christians and their places of worship. He named the source that had documented these incidents; many of which were on record at police stations where complaints had been made.

Sensible governance-expected and prevented   

One would have expected persons in authority, on hearing these remarks, to have demonstrated indignation and contrition that these incidents had taken place under their watch. Further information should have been sought from the IGP, and if found to be substantial, duly investigated with appropriate action taken, to protect those harassed and deal with the perpetrators. This is what good and sensible governance is all about; doing the right thing now, before too many wrong things pile up tomorrow.

If, on the other hand, the remarks were proven to be unfounded, Mr Dias should have been responded to in accordance with the law. 

Sadly none of this happened. To the contrary Mr Dias was subject to a public and arbitrary threat without an opportunity to explain or defend himself and is said to have fled the country out of fear. All this from one who heads a ministry, responsible for upholding the rule of law. Even a child senses, that intimidation is unacceptable, and that we are innocent till proved guilty. In a moment the message was clear; Mr Dias had no business to talk about violence against a minority religion. The question is why?

It is impossible to believe that the information on religious violence was news to those in authority. Representative governance, media briefings, advisors, cabinet meetings and Parliamentary debates are all about having an ear to the ground; an absolute requirement of those holding public office. The number of incidents quoted though high, is not the main issue. In matters of religious intolerance and harassment ten are as bad as a hundred and one as bad as ten. If ten or one are heard this should be enough to raise a legislators’ eye brow and stir conscientious governance.

Bias and denial-failed governance

The bias in the Dias affair is therefore not ignorance, but denial. Religious extremism in today’s world of freedom and rights is a political embarrassment. If it cannot be contained it has to be denied. If there is no official recognition that minority religions are being harassed, then they are not being harassed. When now-and –again the system is activated, it moves and does not. When now-and-again officials act, they do and do not. When now-and –again the law is implemented victims are protected and they are not; perpetrators restrained and they are not. 

This explains the reaction to the talk show remarks. The words of one at a given time convey the attitude of the many all the time. And this is why there will be no peer group reprimand, no explanations or resignations, no questions by those in the Opposition. None will consider it their responsibility to put things right; to ensure Mr Dias of his safety on returning home and restore the confidence of the people in responsible, representative governance.  This includes those who whisper that they stay on to influence change. Their hands are also stained for waiting, waiting and waiting. 

The irony of this episode is that those endowed with authority by the people to care for the people, have chosen to look away from those very people who need their understanding and protection the most. Those harassed are not far away fictitious fantasies. These are real living citizens of this country, children, women, and men, with the right to organise themselves for religious purposes. Most belong to scattered and vulnerable Christian groups, and many meet in houses or make shift halls. With little socio-political influence, they fear going public on their plight, and depend on others to voice their grievances. These are the ones subject to bias and denied the governance of compassion, without which there can be no good governance in countries like ours steeped in cultures of caring hospitality.

Denial prevails because our governments either fear extremists and the layers of dormant sentiments that they arouse, or count among their own ranks those who surreptitiously champion the cause of extremists. This explains the collective bias shaped by a shared fear and prejudice that lies behind the lines that divide our political parties. Indeed the worrying signs of impunity and complicity of the past regime have not been buried. They remain the unfailing baton change that regime change never changes.    

Inter-religious reconciliation-the work of the people

The picture is consequently becoming clearer that reconciliation and healthy co-existence among the religions cannot be left primarily to our governments. It is increasingly a task for sensitive and sensible people of all religions, open to introspection and mutual learning and growth alike.

When people like this come together to talk with each other they inevitably discern that life together in plural religious societies, calls for an abundance of generosity. Generosity of space; for the religious other to live by her convictions, and generosity in judgement, that respects the choices for life made by the religious other. From here self-realisation follows in three phases as so many in this country have experienced;

  1. that it is both possible and necessary to cultivate life-giving friendships with the religious other, and be faithful to our own tradition at the same time,
  2. that we all have an understanding of truth and that the highest quality of life in inter-religious societies is in absorbing aspects of each-others understanding of truth, so that we can all grow in our respective traditions, 
  3. and that when the first two phases fall into place the other can never be suppressed or eliminated since, “I become because the other is”.   

Of course there will still be tensions in our communities from time to time. But when this happens our response will be different; we will spontaneously seek reconciliation. Wise friends representing the different religions from within the community will step in to listen, clarify the different positions, restore trust and make life together possible again. Here too the numerous examples of such reconciliatory interventions are both an encouragement and challenge to us all. 

When these methods fail on the other hand, and some will, the last resort is to seek a legal remedy. But a closely knit society of religions will ensure that under no circumstances will this process accommodate, tolerate or condone with bias, threat or violence.

Where these trends in reconciliation become part of our life together our society will be better placed to stand together to demand our common rights and freedom, and defend each other when these fundamental provisions are threatened by incompetent or inactive governments. In this dual dynamic of advocacy and resistance there will then be no place for the weapons of hatred, hostility and self-pity, specially when provoked or under pressure, as a friend will always be around to caution and restrain us from these life-denying reactions. 

With Peace and Blessings to all

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Latest comments

  • 6
    3

    Well said Bishop.Wise counsel indeed.

  • 5
    4

    Minister Disneyland is in the pocket of the family instigating the violence?

  • 3
    3

    A systemic reduction in the admission of non Christian children to schools under the purview of the Anglican Church began in the early 2000’s . The founding fathers of these schools understood that children who were exposed to cultural and religious diversity at an early age grew up to be more tolerant and compassionate men and women in later life . This century old tradition has now sadly been broken , and what we have in its’ place is a system based on religious religious and ethnic bias .

  • 2
    3

    Looks like Bishop Chikera has decided to make a few noises again, after a while. Good on you reverand. Make Henry VIII, your saviour proud.

  • 5
    3

    Is not the fact that the State’s instinctive practice of refuge in denial needs to be voiced by the former head of a Church that was practically part of the ruling establishment, expose a new level of breakdown in the country’s governance, with new layers being adversely affected? We must be grateful to the Bishop for his courageous and continuing attempts to break out of the mould that characterises the present Cardinal.

    While I have encountered many persons among the Sinhalese Buddhists whom I greatly admire, it is also true that the elite Sinhalese-Buddhist propensity to live in a fantasy world of denial, dominated by ideology, is a leading cause of this country’s breakdown. This is not to say that the Tamil elite is any better, but they have little control of state power.

    For a State and the establishment to be in denial of thousands disappeared whose surrender to the security forces in 2009 was widely witnessed, strains our capacity for gullibility. This is a degree of lawlessness for which we are paying a very high price. The war for which the State was not entirely responsible, and particularly its aftermath, could, with greater respect for the law, have been handled much better.

    I don’t know from where we will obtain the leadership to break out of this impasse. Chandrika Kumaratunge tried to an extent. But I don’t think we will get the lead from religious leaders who have largely been part of the problem.

    • 5
      1

      Rajan Hoole , “”We must be grateful to the Bishop for his courageous and continuing attempts to break out of the mould that characterises the present Cardinal.”
      Do not compare as Henry viii fought 3 wars for the roman emperor the nephew of his catholic spanish wife. then came his anglo saxon daughter virgin queen elizabeth the greatest listener who defeated the VOC (the dutch republic could not be established because of constant catholic vs christian wars) by joining hands with catholics and christians of europe to steal the fastest ships on earth.
      The 3 humbugs of faith are fame, wealth and power.

      “”But I don’t think we will get the lead from religious leaders who have largely been part of the problem.””
      they are principally super sociopaths and empath in one interpreting the given scriptures and not necessarily a sage.
      Hey bookworm Rajan Hoole try to wriggle out of unreal or you never will learn. lifes lesson.Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do. You never will learn to stop your caste bashing because you were not able to decide which place and which family you would be born.
      An established before WW2 Chinese woman (citizen of Lanka) went to Madhu on a pilgrimage and purchased some oranges to offer then suddenly the oranges basket blew her to diced meat.

      Whose war is it who imported a catholic crusader from Malaysia as father of the movement that everyone swears by but not his son who loved a caring educated sinhalese woman.??Who are we to blame anyone but better say just wrong place wrong time like the philosophic chinese. Many Japanese on contractual duty at Lanka have been shot dead by the illiterate village forces and matters have been put under the carpet.

      Don’t distress yourself for the dead for One happiness scatters a thousand sorrows.
      Passion has ruled the world and the last thing we see in the faces of men of fame world wide is rationality.

    • 6
      0

      “”could, with greater respect for the law, have been handled much better.””
      Law is for the ignoble. Justice is for the wise and you are just beating about the bush with a couple of statistics using your ignoble university background as if you are a sage- when question by authority you respond like DJ2. number two salaried staff all your life.

  • 4
    4

    Very well put, Bishop. You have named no names. Quite different from the see-no-evil attitude of the Cardinal. Is it the case that the Cardinal doesn’t consider members of other Churches as Christians?
    BTW, the Cardinal seems to have got himself into the good books of the Maharajahs. Will we be soon seeing him in the company of Battaramulle Seelaratana telling the public what their opinion should be?

    • 5
      1

      Naxalite coup says:””Very well put, Bishop. You have named no names. Quite different from the see-no-evil attitude of the Cardinal.””
      Jesus loved Mary Magdalene like goo blog loves fatima the bitter married islamist.
      Anglo Saxons give no names while they are alive but give the wrong name. then like Jimmy Savile they strip him after death having known his doings all along- how else do you think a patchwork anglican pirates function as world’s cop without a vote?
      Cardinal and your other comment too about him: His DNA comes before patriotism so he is being true to himself and the pope respects that in him. Patriotism is the food that one eats when they are kids. There are no saints without sin and a late anglican bishop a firebrand editor agreed when he asked me for a ciggie- saying god is not looking to strike a conversation and therein he realised there is something called innocence even in the grown up educated- we were friends thereafter.
      happily pagan.

  • 4
    2

    A proper and unbiased investigation should be held. Certainly either the Minister Rajapakse or Attorney Lakshan Dias is guilty.

    From the facts produced it looks as If the Minister Rajapakse is guilty and he should have the courtesy to get his name erased from his professional registry and resign apologizing to the attorney.

    But knowing who the man is he will never do what he told the attorney to do.

    There is no difference between this Government and that of Mahinda Rajapakse. The very same people who Maithripala Sirisena promised said during his election campaign to chase them away, was selected as his ministers. so how can the ordinary people expect any salvation. All of them are bloody crooks out to cheat and rob the country.

  • 3
    1

    I guess MR is still waving the Tax File of Wijedasa which can be opened if released.
    The IR Dept. is silent. Wijedasa dances accordingly with or without the support
    of RW!

  • 4
    3

    Was it necessary for WR to say what he said about Dias?
    Clearly he has started creating a vote bank.

  • 3
    4

    Religious intolerance in Sri Lanka comes about because of the distortion of Buddhism to serve a variety of myths including Sinhala dominance. It is when religion seeks to be exclusive that problems start. Buddhism like Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. Neither did it need the help of the Sinhala monk to spread around the world, into China, Japan, Korea and into many south east asian states. It now has adherents in the West because of its innate attraction. If the Sinhalese think that it needs protection, they are mistaken. It is only their misguided version of Buddhism that needs protection. So, give up being vindictive. Practice the tolerance Buddha taught. Do not kill or burn other people. Show loving kindness to all.
    As the Bishop points out, it is the duty of all to protest when fanatics go on a rampage based on race or religion. In these matters, he also serves who only stands and waits.
    It would be good sense if RW and Maithri, ditch this so called Minister of Justice. He is tainted

    • 2
      1

      ‘If the Sinhalese think that it needs protection, they are mistaken. It is only their misguided version of Buddhism that needs protection.’

      How can you say this when evangelists are planting churches in every Hindu and Buddhist village? Think about it, would the Phillipine government and RC church allow Buddhists to do the same in Filipino villages? Would they remain silent and say ‘practice tolerance, show loving kindness’?

      • 1
        3

        Buddhists and Hindus avoid proselytising. These religions have a hold in East, South and South East Asia without conquest. The question of Buddhist and Hindus planting temples in the Philippines simply does not arise. Our religions have not depended on conquest through force. That is why the protection for Buddhism by the Sangha in Sri Lanka is an absolute myth. It did not require protection during colonial times. Monks like Gnansara and his protectors are not protecting Buddhism. They are abusing the basic tenets of Buddhism. Would you want your child to watch the filthy abuse that a Buddhist monks uses on youtube?

        • 3
          1

          Of course Gnanasara should be locked up but to claim that Buddhism did not need protection in colonial times is absurd. Read your history. There was a time when only Christian marriages were valid, when only a Christian could get a Government job, when all state school teachers were Christian. That is not the situation today, but remember the words of the Bishop ‘the work of the Church in Ceylon will not be finished until the rest of the population have been converted to the true faith’. Buddhism certainly needs protecting, and so does Hinduism.

  • 3
    4

    Time to read my article again as attacks against Christians and Muslims grow. No denying Sinhala Buddhist bigotry is the root cause of strife in Sri Lanka; Muslims & Christians are their recent targets, but it must be told, Tamils their main target have long suffered in their hands, often the attacks were state sponsored! Sadly it’s nothing less than calculated genocide – This is not to forget the perpetrators of 1915 massacre of Moors, many of them Sinhala political leaders – who were saved from execution by Sir Pon Ramanathan!
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sinhala-buddhist-bigotry-root-cause-of-strife-in-sri-lanka/

    • 5
      0

      “”Time to read my article again as attacks against Christians and Muslims grow. “”
      Playing for the low the nee family trait. blood is thicker than marriage.
      both are the known crusaders from the same stone to convert destabilise, de industrialise and industrialise the west.- go read An Era of Darkness – Sashi Tharoor author of 44 books and his son post graduation in foreign affairs a foreign correspondent at washington is a shining star too.
      Ushi go back to dancing when even chickna granny Hema Malini of Thanjavur still dazzles- make some money and care for the 90,000 widows living in misery due to your associates Peeeelam!!

      • 3
        0

        Ushi,
        Last of the native hindu/sanskrit warriors of Hindustan.
        Thanjavur Marathas of the Bhonsle dynasty,
        Thanjavur Marathas of the Bhonsle dynasty, were the rulers of Thanjavur principality of Tamil … Venkoji, a half-brother of the great Maratha king Shivaji was the first Raja of Thanjavur from the Bhosale dynasty. It is believed that … Shivaji was the last Maratha ruler of Thanjavur and reigned from 1832 to 1855. Then English East India company set to rule by establishing the very first english mounted police at Chennai. Gujarat is a young sibling of Maratha and they own most of Bombay. Lankan muslims are porriki compared to the sailor/navy muslims of maratha.
        Little wonder then that your porriki Vaiko was jailed by Sushima on several occasions.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Bishop

    While you are correct to point out the defects in our present government, I believe the problem goes much deeper, to our education system, both formal and cultural. We need to have our culture and educational system produce better minds than the current set of national leaders, let me put it that way. Hopefully our schools are busy teaching the president and leaders of our distant future. These leaders do not respond because they do not have education and intellectual training to be able to do so?

    Let me quote something Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has said, that will suffice:

    “I am one of the best paid and probably one of the poorest of the third world prime ministers.”

  • 2
    2

    All rajapaksas are butchers and murderers. Cardinals and bishops are no saint either

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