23 July, 2024


Catholic Priests And Activists Urge Cardinal To Refrain From Using His Office To Undermine Human Rights

A group of Catholic priests and activists have written a letter to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith urging him to refrain from using his position to bring the Catholic faith into disrepute, to mislead Catholic faithful and to undermine the human rights framework and discourses which have universal applicability, including to Sri Lanka, and which have been welcomed by successive Popes.

Cardinal Malcom Ranjith

“Instead, please support, encourage and lead the faithful, including the clergy, religious and laity, to become more aware of human rights and get involved in struggles for human rights, in line with the 2013 pastoral letter’s call to “collaborate with God in preserving the dignity and the rights of all,” not to say all the broader Catholic teachings related to human rights,” the letter says.

The full text of the letter and its signatories are as follows:

11th October 2018

His Eminence,

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith,

Archbishop’s House, Borella,

Colombo 08, 

Sri Lanka

Your Eminence, 

Human Rights are integral to Christian faith. As Catholic Clergy, Religious and Laity from different Catholic dioceses and different congregations in Sri Lanka, we were shocked at some of your recent comments saying that there was nothing called ‘human rights,’ that human rights came recently, that they constitute a new western religion, meant for those without a religion, that they are a myth to be “careful” about, and that those who believe in (and practice) a religion don’t need to talk about human rights. 

We have also read the ‘clarification’ you provide to the Daily Mirror and comments by your secretary, Rev. Fr. Subasinghe, which in no way provide a different interpretation of your comments in the homily, and which appear, overall, to be aimed at undermining the human rights discourse and frameworks. We are deeply disappointed that nowhere in the 12 minutes of your speech do you explain the strong Catholic teachings on human rights. While you highlight that “replacing religion with human rights is not what is to be done,” what you seem to be advocating for is to “replace human rights with religion,” despite oppressive and discriminatory past and present practices of religions, including Catholicism, not to mention complicity with perpetrators. We note that even before this, you have implied human rights are a western imposition that might damage our culture.

Human rights is about all human beings being able to live in dignity, without discrimination, want or fear. Which is very much in line with our faith as Catholics that all human beings are equal and were created in the image of God. Human rights play a key role in Catholic Social Teachings. The principle of human rights is universal, insists on freedom of religion and belief for all, captures fundamental teachings of religious and spiritual traditions about human dignity, equality etc., but also challenges discriminatory and oppressive past and present practices of religions including Catholicism. 

In 1979, Pope John Paul II described the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a “real milestone on the path of the moral progress of humanity” and in 1995, that it “remains one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time.”

‘Ecclesia in Asia,’ from Pope John Paul II after the Asian Bishops meeting in 1998, recognizes that “(t)he various international declarations on human rights and the many initiatives which these have inspired are a sign of growing attention on a worldwide level to the dignity of the human person,” together with the “need for all God’s people in Asia to come to a clear awareness of the inescapable and unrenounceable challenge involved in the defence of human rights.”

More recently, we are heartened and instructed by many pronouncements of Pope Francis in relation to human rights. (For example, “Let us all work decisively so that no one is excluded from the effective recognition of their fundamental human rights” on 2016 international human rights day). This year, in his annual address to the ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, Pope Francis chose to focus on the UDHR on its 70th anniversary, affirming its preamble that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” He went on to say that “(f)rom a Christian perspective, there is a significant relation between the Gospel message and the recognition of human rights in the spirit of those who drafted the UDHR,” that “they [rights in the UDHR] were proclaimed in order to remove the barriers that divide the human family.” Pope Francis insists that “to speak of human rights means above all to restate the centrality of the human person, willed and created by God in his image and likeness” and that “traditions of individual peoples cannot be invoked as a pretext for disregarding the due respect for the fundamental rights proclaimed by the UDHR.”

We are also reminded that the 2013 Pastoral Letter by all the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka, to which you are also a signatory, has a dedicated chapter on human rights, which asserts that “any cases on the violation of fundamental rights need to be courageously looked into” and that “programmes of formation of the general public on fundamental rights and their inalienable value should be priorities for Sri Lanka.”

As Sri Lankan Catholics, we recognize the relevance and applicability of universally recognized human rights to Sri Lanka. And that promoting and protecting the human rights of all is a fundamental and integral vocation of all Catholics, along with others of different religious beliefs and those with no religious beliefs.  

We see your comments as your personal opinion. We find it difficult to believe your comments represent the faith of the Catholics in the Archdiocese of Colombo and we are conscious that you don’t represent in anyway the other 11 Catholic dioceses, or the many Catholic Religious Congregations and Lay movements in Sri Lanka.

We appeal to you to refrain from using your position to bring the Catholic faith into disrepute, to mislead Catholic faithful and to undermine the human rights framework and discourses which have universal applicability, including to Sri Lanka, and which have been welcomed by successive Popes. Instead, please support, encourage and lead the faithful, including the clergy, religious and laity, to become more aware of human rights and get involved in struggles for human rights, in line with the 2013 pastoral letter’s call  to “collaborate with God in preserving the dignity and the rights of all,” not to say all the broader Catholic teachings related to human rights. 

We look forward to a response from you. 

Respectfully yours in Christ,

  1. Rev. Sr. Noel Christine Fernando 
  2. Rev. Fr. Nandana Mantunga, Director, Human Rights Office 
  3. Rev. Fr. J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF 
  4. Rev. Fr. F. J. G. Croos (Nehru)  
  5. Rev. Fr. .V.Yogeswaran,s.j  
  6. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos  
  7. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda  
  8. Rev. Fr. S. Jayawardena 
  9. Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Fernando, OMI  
  10. Rev. Fr. Eric Lakman, OMI  
  11. Rev. Fr. Sriyan  
  12. Rev. Fr. Gerard Rosairo, OMI  
  13. Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephen OMI, Attorney-at-law, Executive Director, Centre for Society and Religion 
  14. Ms. Melanie Pereira 
  15. Mr. Aruna Shantha Nonis 
  16. Mr. Edward Mariathas  
  17. Mr. Herman Kumara 
  18. Mr. Philip Setunga  
  19. Ms. Deanne Uyangoda  
  20. Ms. Marisa De Silva  
  21. Mr. Nilshan Fonseka  
  22. Mr. Ruki Fernando
  23. Mr. M. Ratnasabapathy 
  24. Mr. Johann Peiris
  25. Ms. Kshama Ranawana  
  26. Mr. Arjuna Ranawana  
  27. Annemari de Silva 
  28. Melanie Jayawardena
  29. Rohan Jayawardena
  30. NP Bulathsinghala
  31. Kathy Bulathsinghala
  32. Tasha Bulathsinghala
  33. Asantha Sirimanne
  34. Anoushka Wilson
  35. Raisa Wickrematunge
  36. Masha Fernando
  37. Coralie Pietersz
  38. Rihan Ayamperuma
  39. Luwie Ganeshathasan
  40. Prof Wilfred Perera
  41. Navin Perera
  42. A. M. De Alwis
  43. Indran Amirthanayagam
  44. Brian Emmanuel
  45. Catherine Mack
  46. Tyronne Paiva
  47. Eshantha Joseph Peiris
  48. Sanjay Cangasabey
  49. MJA Stanislaus
  50. Crystal Koelmeyer
  51. P R Canagaratna
  52. Eugenie Mack
  53. Maureen Ernest
  54. Fr Aloysius Pieris
  55. Matilda Lazarus
  56. Lucille Abeykoon
  57. Shivantha Rathnayake
  58. Dulan de Silva, Chairman Give2Lanka (Gte) Ltd
  59. Joanne Senn
  60. Sandun Thadugala, A Catholic Human Rights Activist
  61. Chandrika Gadiewasam, writer
  62. P Selvaratnam, Women for Justice and Peace Sri Lanka
  63. Rev Fr R Augustine
  64. Prema Gamage
  65. Caryll Tozer
  66. Dr Mario Gomez
  67. Suren D Perera
  68. Emil van der Poorten, Supporter of Civic and Human Rights
  69. Dinushika Dissanayake
  70. Sr Nichola SCJM
  71. Peter Rezel
  72. Godfrey Malarnesan 
  73. Fr Pan Jordan OP, Coordinator, Pax Christi, Queensland 
  74. Chantal Cooke
  75. Fr J M Joseph Jayaseelan CMF
  76. Francis Raajan
  77. Amalini De Sayrah
  78. Kshama Ranawana
  79. Fr. Jeevantha Peiris
  80. Nathan Koblintz
  81. Nadeesh Jayasinghe
  82. Anupama Ranawana
  83. Nandini Gunawardena
  84. Isha Miranda
  85. Nadine Vanniasinkam
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Latest comments

  • 9

    I am a Buddhist and I have my great respect for Honourable Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

    I appreciate the statement made by Cardinal. What he has mentioned is truth nothing but the truth.

    We, as citizens of Sri Lanka, do not need any preaching from this so called, NGO Human Rights activists (NGO Karayas) to teach us what is correct or wrong or what is human rights or not.

    • 23

      Sunil Dahanayake

      “We, as citizens of Sri Lanka, do not need any preaching from this so called, NGO Human Rights activists (NGO Karayas) to teach us what is correct or wrong or what is human rights or not.”

      We as members of public do not need unelected religious saffronistas telling us what is right, wrong and stupid. They should focus on theology, life after death, and take their philosophical debate elsewhere among their fellow saffronistas.

      The Cardinal should realize that if people don’t treat their family well the neighbours and strangers will grope their women folks. The cardinal should have advised the state, state apparatuses, governments, politicians, …………. to treat their people well rather than going after the standard bearers of human rights.

      He should have consulted Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis who knows one or two thing about Human Rights, ………….. and how his own state treated people in the bad old days.

    • 10

      Pope sacked a few days back two Cardinals for sex abuse. Pope himself is under fire for possible cover ups. Is that the way religion safeguard human rights. About 3000 Christian priests are facing child abuse allegations. Other religions are no better. Einstein on god.’ God an institution created by human weakness.

    • 25

      I am a Roman Catholic and I have NO respect for this shameless political stooge ‘Cardinal’ Malcolm Ranjith. I DON’T agree with the statement made by the Cardinal. What he has mentioned has NO TRUTH what so ever. The stupid ‘Cardinal’ should understand that beliefs do not have rights but humans do. He is a disgrace to the Catholics of Sri Lanka and to the Roman Catholic Church. Majority of Catholics are not happy with the Cardinal’s political sermon undermining Human Rights.

      • 8

        This is too harsh a criticism. Respect those to whom respect is due. Yes criticize but with decorum and dignity.
        Jesus Christ and the Old Testament taught the essentials of loving thy neighbor as thyself- a no better stand for human rights- a new fangled version of an old commandment to love one’s neighbor as thyself- a commandment given by God himself and it sums up everything in our relations with others including human rights.Name-calling disrespectfully shows up the wickedness of the speaker.

    • 5

      Sunil Dahanayake ,

      The Priests, Monks, Ulama should focus on getting their people to the Heaven, Nirvana and avoid Hell and Apaya, and not in defending those humans who abuse other humans, because they a religious people. This is an issue of ethics.

      The “Ethic” or Theology of the Catholic Church is that all the non-Catholics will burn in Hell fire for eternity. The Inquisitors, did not even wait for that.

      • 3

        This is not correct. The Catholic church says man is so weak that he needs Gods intervention for Salvation. But God will be the judge and he is a merciful judge. The atonement for sin has already been made by the death of Jesus who suffered and was crucified. God wants the Catholics and those whom he has specially called to be an example for the rest. God gave the Ten Commandments as a moral standard for the whole world to follow. The rest are called to follow their righteous example and will be judged each according to his own actions . God is a merciful judge. and will reject only those who deliberately reject and refuse to follow his Commandment to love thy neighbor and not those who do not know him. Love of God and love of neighbor are the only two Commandments. Those who do not know God cannot possibly love him but they can still love their neighbor.The theology of the Church has changed with the growth of knowledge

  • 7

    Jesus died on the cross because he was a Human Right Activist. According to New Testament, Priests are the ones who killed him.

    • 0


      “Jesus died on the cross because he was a Human Right Activist. According to New Testament, Priests are the ones who killed him.”

      Was Jesus born in Nazareth or in Bethlehem? What is the historical truth?

      According to the New Testament, it was the Roman soldiers, Italians, who killed Jesus, the Jew, but the Catholic Church blamed the Jews and persecuted the Jews, instead of blaming of the Romans and and the Italians.

      Is the Pope Catholic and Italian?

      • 0

        Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grown u in Nazareth. High Priests (like Pope, Cardinals and Bishops and also priests who were Jews) condemned Jesus to crucify and asked Romans to kill him. Actually Priests were jealous of Jesus as majority supported and followed him.

        Pope can be an any national but has to be a Catholic. (Cardinals are selecting him)

        During the first centenary many Jews converted to Christianity. Even today we can find Jewish christians

  • 3

    Yes CT is on a mission to attack the Cardnal. There had been so many articles against him, one after another

    • 6

      Looks like in the near future this so called ‘Cardinal’ will shave his head and turn into a Buddhist monk when the Catholic church remove him.

  • 2

    James… What shame would you have if I told you after the WW II CIA established an Intel gathering and sharing station inside the Vatican with Vatican on info supplied by the cloaked missionaries or mercenaries.

    There are mutinies taking plave in the forces.
    There are crossovers taking place in the political field.
    As Emmanuel/Chandrakantha/Rayappu identified Pirabhakaran to be or like JESUS CHRIST, will WE GET TO HEAR the 85 traitors whose names stated herein who has gone against the Cardinal INTEND TO CROSS OVER to the Church of PIRIBHAKARAN ???????
    May be very soon.

  • 1

    Jesus got crucified for trying to protect the Dalits, who were the Bedouins, Africans, Chinese and all sorts of their poor Ethnic people who were living in and around Jerusalam….
    And getting flogged to death….

    Roman Rulers and their collaborator, the Rich Jews and the High Priest didn’t like their authority, their privileges and their abuses being challenged by a bunch of smart youth …… ….

    If Dr Malcom Ranjith sucked up to Dr Ranil, Mangala, Malik, Kabir Hashim, Galleon Ravi and a whole host of other Yahapalanistas, who only worry about the Rights of the Elite, Vellalas and the Money Bags to do what ever they want to do , Dr Malcom will be not following the example set by Jesus Christ……

  • 6

    What a comotion a reporter has brought?
    Within a few seconds of a sermon of a 8 – 12 minutes do you expect a person to deal on full human rights?
    Cardinal is worked up because of the morale issues the are trying to come into our country.
    Free sex in schools, codomes to high schools, freedom to smoke or carry drugs to schools, abortion, prostitution, marrigies with impossibility have children. Euthanacia…etc.
    It is the thing that has come up as he refers a day or two ago. Not the human rights thst you reffer and reacts. He too is in to -to with you all in the subject.
    When he says religion is far superior it is true. “If everybody lives their religion there will be no breaking of human rights at all. If so why do we have to speak about it?” But it is unfortunate religion is not lived and practiced properly in in its institutes itsel and the wrold. It dosn’t mean that religios are wrong. It is the people in them who are wrong.
    But it dosn’t mean that the leader in it cannot speak about what is write.
    For God sake understand what the Cardinal is worried about is the morale state. Aren’t you worried about what is going to come to our schools and the country? A moral decadence. Many seem to be ignorent about it. For your knowledge. If the Cardinal had kept silent it would have been too late and by now the laws would have come.
    Don’t attack the church and twist the subject. Church with its weak human being is at its faults. But this is our country. The people are inocent. Some religious leaders are ignorent or caught up. But you don’t get carried away. Lets stand together and fight the immoralists who are trying to bring immoral freedom through human rights.

    • 3

      Dear Ciswan de Croos,
      The issues that you have brought up are important. The Cardinal doesn’t know enough about them to issue encyclicals.
      However, please see this comment on the first of these three pages which mostly complain about this man:
      Richard / October 12, 2018
      If he wants to survive, he must stop playing politics. It is for those reasons that he is being criticised. I’m sorry that some devout Catholics, and followers of other religions feel hurt; I don’t think that to be the intention of the critics. The bottom line is that some of us are so sick of all these religions that we wish none of them existed.

  • 0


    We all know who you are. In the first place you are not a Sinhalese but a Tamil. 2nd you support LTTE

    • 4

      Dear Kolla,
      I’m not sure that I can keep track of all those who comment, but I had the feeling that you were rational.
      Well, neither statement made by you is true. I try to write in such a way as to lessen tensions with Tamils, but I don’t even know their language.
      I have many times unambiguously revealed my identity – name, photograph etc. Once I even gave my NIC number. Given the way we classify the ethnicities of persons, I’m pure “Sinhalese”, but I think that most of our genes are Dravidian. We’re all pretty dark etc.
      Now there are people whom we identify as Tamils. Aren’t a good many of them opposed to the LTTE? Yet far too many of us Sinhalese seem to say that every Tamil is a Tiger.
      Would you like to write to me direct? I don’t want to become a joke by spraying my contact details everywhere, but I wouldn’t mind talking to you one to one. I’ll initiate a call, provided it is one of the commoner connections.
      The problems facing the country are serious.

    • 1

      Two days later, no response.
      You are fit company for your racist friend, the Cardinal.

  • 0

    This shit of a cardinal should be defrocked and consigned to the limbo of idiots and sycophants who play politics for their own gain. He does not understand the basic tenets of decency and values and is a disgrace to all catholics and the church. Lets get rid of this shithead as soon as we can and all catholics should raise their voices in protest abd stop supporting the catholic church as long as this braggart is in office.

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