By Malinda Seneviratne –
[In a parallel universe of course…]
Lord, let me start with a disclaimer. I am frail, M’Lord. That’s because I am human, M’Lord. I falter, M’Lord. That too because I am human, M’Lord. I err, M’Lord. That’s human too, M’Lord. M’Lord, I am blinded by ignorance and arrogance and this myopic condition is further aggravated by my prejudices; I am human.
I was ordained a priest in 1967 at the age of 27. I was appointed Bishop of Manner in 1992. I’ve seen a lot in my life and in my ministry. There was a lot that I saw and there’s a lot that I described. And yet, Lord, there was much more that I was silent about.
Lord, you see all, you hear all. You even hear our silences. You notice our frailties and the error of our choices. I know it is not mine to question and I ought to know that I am being tested. But Lord, I forget. I slip.
In my anger, ignorance and arrogance I forgot that we are all your children, that is myself, my congregation, those who share my faith and ethnic identity as well as those who don’t. They are your children too, those that people I call ‘friends’ call ‘enemy’. I judge when that’s what you have to do.
Forgive me Lord for my presumptions.
I have borne false witness, Lord. I’ve lied about my neighbor. Indeed I’ve lied about my friends. I’ve employed rhetoric and half-truths to cover up for their crimes. I should call those who fish, fishermen; I should call those who are harmless, lambs; I should call those who hack children and pregnant mothers to death, butchers. I have not, Lord, and that’s because I chose to focus on the crimes, perceived or real, perpetrated by ‘others’. I forgot Lord that in your Kingdom there are no ‘others’. I forgot Lord that charity begins at home. Forgive me, Lord.
I know about abductions of children and conscription of same for military purposes. I did not name the abductors ‘child-snatchers’ and I did not point them out either. I did not object. I know that some 300,000 civilians were corralled into restricted spaces and used as a human shield. I never once called them ‘hostages’. Instead Lord I poured invective on those who eventually rescued these innocents at great cost too. Those whom I deliberately misnamed ‘boys’ shot those who tried to flee and even sent little children with explosives tied to their person so they could explode at points where the fleeing were received. I did not object. I did not even admit to myself that these were acts that you Lord would abhor. Forgive me, Lord.
I knew all along Lord that the Government, INGOs, UN Agencies and diplomats of powerful nations worked tirelessly to get food, medicine and other essential supplies to the people held hostage. I know that if there was any intention of killing civilians, the Government need not have bothered to do all this. I know that the ‘boys’ pilfered these supplies and starved those in whose name they claimed to be fighting. I didn’t utter a word of objection. Forgive me, Lord.
I know that over 11,000 ‘boys’ were released by the security forces. I know that this is unprecedented. You know Lord that the United States of America and other countries raising concern about how the Sri Lankan security forces operated during the war would never even entertain the thought of releasing prisoners. I have not had the grace to acknowledge all this; I’ve not had the humility to acknowledge error. Forgive me, Lord.
I lied about the numbers, Lord. You know. I need not elaborate.
I have not forgiven those who I claimed were trespassing even when they were not, but forgive my trespasses Lord. Empower me Lord with that which I lack, make tender that which anger has made hard within me, hone me Lord more closer to your image, give me the humility of your Son, grant me the strength to submit to your Commandments, receive me again and again with your incomparable love. Forgive me, again and again, so I could also learn to forgive, to forgive myself.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com