By Rehan Fernando –
This is not an article in which I attempt to take buried things from a graveyard. However, I guess the Easter Sunday attack on April 21 is still being misinterpreted and taken on stage in the wrong direction, especially in terms of justice. Christian and biblical teaching on justice on one hand is strong theological speculation, on the other hand, it gives shapes a society with responsibilities. April 21 attack was willingly and consciously planned out a group of political slaves in this country. For that, a group of Muslims unnecessarily took the option to be slaves of a mechanism that belongs to uneducated fools. It has massively affected Sri Lankan society and we still cannot count the repercussions. However, the concept of justice or the seeking of justice cannot be restricted to one isolated event. Hence, the authorities of the church are to be reminded of certain essential elements in this regard. This article will focus on what justice is all about and how it is to be applied in a biblical-liberative manner.
Faith: A fact of aspiring for liberation
History reveals that the faith of the Jewish people is not based on theories. Biblical faith does not rely on mythical occurrences, rather it relies on people’s experiences. So, faith is connected with WORDS which is followed by HAPPENING. Biblical faith, therefore, means “knowing the history and believing in the God who reveals himself in it.” A serious study of this event so-called seeking justice for the Easter attack does not give me any authentic meaning of seeking justice. Most people who were at the church on that day were the people who promoted the military regime and the culture of the killing of the innocent in this country, especially at the latter part of the ward in 2009. The Catholic Church authorities, directly and indirectly, promoted Mahinda Rajapaksa’s massacring culture, which brought massively sad memories to many innocent Tamils. Did people at Katuwapitiya come forward when another group of people in the same country was massacred? What sort of struggle that people at Katuwapitiya geared toward seeking justice for Tamils and their lost lives? Because the faith of the people should be one in the spirit, in which ‘words’ and ‘happening’ take place in the action of God. Yet many people at Katuwapitiya and some of those who seek justice for the April-21-Easter-attack have not represented the common humanity in this country. This type of seeking of justice only relies upon an isolated incident.
Biblical faith speaks of solidarity with our neighbors and those who suffer due to various forms of structural injustice. If justice is to have existed in society, the suffering people are to be treated fairly. Those who seek justice should understand that knowledge of God completely relies on doing justice to suffering ones. Gutiérrez asserts “to know God is to do justice.” Those who seek justice for April 21 attack must remember, whatsoever the justice that speaks should lead toward collective consciousness, in which justice for all events to be covered. Bomb blasts did not only take place at Katuwapitiya. How can that simple truth be ignored and speak of justice only for the Easter attack? It does not lead us to liberation in which our faith experience does reflect a common conscientization.
April 21 incident: Was it an accident?
It seems to me that the present government which came to power in 2019 by creating unnecessary and irrelevant problems regarding national security in the country considers the Easter attack as an accident. The previous government and the opposition party then were well informed by national security forces but those responsible personalities now act as if the Easter attack was done by a group of foreigners or any other aliens. It shows the professional hypocrisy of this present government. If they created problems for power-gaining, they will also be destroyed from the same problems they created. However, moral responsibility relies upon all leaders who now act in an indifferent sense. April 21 incident was not an accident, nor a group of Muslims attacked to gain power. It was willingly, consciously, and vehemently plotted not only for the mere gaining of power and spreading over a family-dominated-political system in this country but also to create a forceful structure through militarization and nationalism.
The sad part of the story in this scenario is that people who supported this government to gain power are still silent in promoting their mechanism of the present government. It implies that if there is any other election, people will once again appoint the same corrupted politicians and enjoy the current pandemic and its subcultures, favoritism, and nationalism.
Rereading of ‘Fratelli Tutti’ for Katuwapitiya-people
People at Katuwapitiya and the church authorities of the diocese of Colombo should reread Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti. It might give them the best solution to rethink what solidarity is. Malcolm Ranjith cardinal has always denied the Tamils’ struggle for peace and harmony. He and his political mechanism, and his most of the diocesan priests have never paid attention to authentic solidarity with other suffering communities. Even after the Easter attack, the victims of the Batticaloa Christian church (little children) were not properly remembered. Francis wants to tell this world that fraternity and social friendship are the only way to heal the sickness of inhumanity, in which people lose fraternal love, simplicity, and joy. He invites the people to fix themselves in a shared roadmap where mutual collaboration takes place. If Katuwapitiya men and women seek justice for Easter Attack, it is apt to keep it in minds and hearts that they will have to act not in an isolated area but a common roadmap and one shared truth and reality.
“Kiribath-lunumiris”: A subculture to be stopped
Kiribath and lunumiris are cultured food that we all enjoy mostly for breakfast. Most of the Sinhalese and Tamils enjoy this cultural food without any difficulty since anybody can afford it. But in recent years, this food was used to expressed peoples’ mere joy and victory over others who suffered and who went through difficult times. Kiribath and lunumiris became a source of, celebrating, dominating and showing Sinhala-Buddhist superiority over Tamil civilians. People also celebrate superfluous election victories in preparing this food and enjoying it. Good cultured food is used to show off the uncultured activities of Sinhalese. If I am not mistaken, people at Katuwapitiya and in Negombo did such work when Tamil peoples’ areas became graveyards. The so-called victory of the war was celebrated in enjoying this cultured food. What does it imply or indicate? Do we think that we have celebrated an event systematically or humanly? Unfortunately, there is no proper ideology and structural mechanism to stop this subculture.
There is nothing wrong with seeking justice when there is injustice existing in any society. However, in the case of the Easter bomb attack, Katuwapitiya people will have to be more biblical rather than to be political. If they become instrumental to promote and seek justice through mere political mechanisms, the process itself fails. Thus, they must remember that rely on the very people and politicians who had directly or indirectly involved and engaged in the April 21 attack. This type of unreliable event happened in history as Israelites left their God and engaged in mythical formulas. I see another version of that history is being repeated by Katuwapitiya people in seeking justice. It is more appropriate to rely on the biblical and liberative ways and means of justice rather than relying on mere political agendas.
Seeing justice became a central issue when the coffin was taken from our (Sinhalese) homes, but when the coffin was taken from others’ (Tamils and Muslims) homes, we did not feel it much.
 Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History (New York: Orbis Books, 1983), 05.:
 Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation (New York: Orbis Books, 1971), 110.
 Poe Francis, Fratelli Tutti, no. 2.
*Rehan Fernando is a Ph.D. student, doing his research on inter-religious dialogue with a case study of Dr. Michael Rodrigo OMI. He is also the author of 4 Sinhala books and 3 English books. He is also the editor of a journal called “Paadhai.”