14 August, 2022


From Self-Scrutiny To Social Integration: A Reflection

By Bishop Duleep de Chickera

Bishop Duleep de Chickera

Bishop Duleep de Chickera

Jesus used parables to convey the essence of His teaching. On one occasion He taught on the importance of self-scrutiny through a parable that contrasted two men at prayer. Of these the one who recognised his lapses, stood at the threshold of change and growth. The other, was blind to his lapses. He would remain static in the grip of arrogance until and unless he came to his senses and recognised his shortcomings.


Self-scrutiny amounts to personal accountability through voluntary review. It is an abiding spiritual discipline in the time tested religions of the world as well as in secular life. When practised with humility and integrity, it spills over to enhance the common good. When disregarded, it stunts growth and obstructs the common good.

Institutional scrutiny

Just as humans benefit from self-scrutiny, institutions too benefit greatly from it. This is because our institutions, whether parliament, or the judiciary, organised religion or the military, our prisons department or police department; comprise flawed humans who carry our human lapse into the character and affairs of these institutions.

More seriously, and as we only know too well, when attitudes of denial and resistance to institutional scrutiny are entrenched in the lives of these institutions, they tend to forget that their primary legitimacy comes from serving the common good and then develop an aversion to account for their behaviour. From here, institutions easily shift to an unhealthy life style of impunity that those who make up these institutions would not have imagined or attempted in their individual capacity.


The call for accountability on how we hurt each other did not first come from outside. It came from within the country and it came consistently throughout our painful and protracted conflict of three decades. Almost every reported violation and atrocity during those tragic and violent days provoked calls for investigation and the disclosure of the truth from groups and individuals of conscience. But sadly our institutions responsible for the moral, legal and physical protection of the innocent let us down badly. The absence of institutional scrutiny had brought a heavy toll.

The closest we came to a formal recognition of the truth was the findings of the LLRC which recommended further investigation on some accumulated grievances. Had we even then pursued these recommendations with political integrity, this could well have paved the way to a wider and more thorough investigation of our questionable behaviour that today’s co-sponsored UN resolution calls for.

A fresh start

Nevertheless the co-sponsored UN resolution has once again provided an opportunity for us to do what is right for and by ourselves. For this to be done with purpose, however, we are to recognise that the cause of today’s accumulated investigative challenge is the loss of perspective of our institutions with mandates for the common good. This is why any attempts at reform and reconciliation cannot casually bypass the crises of character and behaviour of these institutions. Perpetrators are not only those who killed, drove the white vans or conscripted children. They also include those with statutory responsibility to protect people, uphold human values, investigate violations, prosecute perpetrators and make known the truth, and who did not do so.

To deny this first line of culpability is to protect those still within the system, capable of pulling the country down once again to the very patterns of behaviour that we want to see an end to.

A Compassionate Council

There has been some talk of a compassionate council, comprising religious leaders, as part of the response to the co-sponsored UN resolution. While both religion and compassion must have a place in wider social reconciliation and healing, the place of such a formal council in our common search for truth, justice and reconciliation today, cannot go uncontested.

This is mostly because justice tempered with mercy must be left to the judicial system and worked out on judicial principles. If such a mix is alien to our judicial system the co-sponsored resolution becomes an opportunity to break new ground. After all any post war judicial investigation that pursues accountability and national reconciliation cannot casually dispense amnesties mostly or hastily throw people into prison mostly. What is required is a public disclosure of truth leading to prosecutions for violations, along with remedial provisions for a return to healing relationships; in that order. Daunting no doubt; but there does not seem to be a better way to deal with violations, heal memories of the past and prevent further fragmentation and conflict.

A step within such remedial mechanisms would be for victims, who mostly have the right to extend compassion, to be provided with space and time to forgive perpetrators after the truth has been disclosed and acknowledged, and for this to have a bearing on prosecutions.

Such a stance that asserts that reconciliation cannot be divorced from justice, the rule of law and fairness, also challenges the easy assumption that compassion comes mostly from formal religion. In fact formal religion has often demonstrated quite the opposite. With notable exceptions, it is known to be too politicised or too indifferent on social issues or too obsessed with its own agendas of expansionism and exclusion, to impartially and proactively usher compassion.

Moreover compassion is a generously distributed virtue among those who do not claim to possess it or follow the chemistry of religion. We are misled and mislead if we imagine that religious labels are always trustworthy and if we project religious leaders too generally above others as models of compassion.


Self-scrutiny, institutional scrutiny, the self-disclosure of truth, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation, cannot be sold or demanded, promised or politicised. These life transforming values are to grow and be nourished through practise and affirmation. If we can together make this happen, the pursuit of truth, justice and reconciliation will transcend formal investigations to become an integral way of life and the bedrock of democracy in our land.

Anything short of this will reduce our endeavours to a ploy and even a lie.

With Peace and Blessings to all

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Thanks for the advise. Before any institution follows your recommendation I think all the Religeous institutions including the Christian church should have an open self analysis to understand how this country has moraly detonated to the present state.

    • 1

      “…Christian church should have an open self analysis to understand how this country has moraly detonated to the present state.”

      The Buddhist temple should also follow the Buddha’s Dhamma and practise what He Taught: –

      “Self-scrutiny amounts to personal accountability through voluntary review. It is an abiding spiritual discipline in the time tested religions of the world as well as in secular life. When practised with humility and integrity, it spills over to enhance the common good. When disregarded, it stunts growth and obstructs the common good.”

      Thank you Bishop de Chickera

      • 0

        Dear Bishop Checker,
        Your comment is irrelevant. What I have said is that all religious institution including the christian church should self analyse themselves. Christian church because you as a christian leader is the author of this article. That statement does not exclude the Buddhist temple/leaders , Islamic leaders a . I hope my comment is now clear to you . I am afraid all religious leaders must answer that very pertinent question because they are finally the guardians of social morality. I agree with you that these must be addressed with humility and integrity for the betterment of all Sri Lankans which includes Sinhalese, Tamils, Buddhists, Christians etc. I it will be appropriate for a man of your stature to to take a lead on an open discussion on the subject.

        • 1

          “…all religious institutions….should analyse themselves”

          According to the Dhamma of the Buddha, ‘Self-Analysis’ aka ‘Insight Meditation’ HAS to start with the Individual.

          Institutions cannot ‘Self Analyse’.

  • 1

    Thank you, dear Bishop for your words of wisdom. It now looks that we can only turn to religion and our religous leaders to take leadership of this country when everything else has failed so far.

    I am looking forward to a greater participiation by the religous leaders of this country, those who have shown themselves to be trustworthy, of having the good of the country in their minds, and not political capital.

    National list for clergy? Or should I say clergy for national list. As I have pointed out the House Of Lords in the United Kingdom has its ‘Lords Spiritual’.

    “The membership of the House of Lords is made up of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual are 26 bishops in the established Church of England.[6] Of the Lords Temporal, the majority are life peers who are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. However, they also include some hereditary peers.[7] ” -Wikipedia

    I remember seeing an article in which J.R. Jayawardene at that time said “a second house is a must” What happened?

  • 3

    Too late. The article should have been presented BEFORE the Geneva mechanism was put in place. The Church should have taken a strong posture against “accountability” from the beginning and emphasised thuth and justice in the South African context.

    Isn’t it OBVIOUS that “accountability” is the very antithesis of “Self-scrutiny, institutional scrutiny, the self-disclosure of truth, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation”

    Mark my word, “accountability” applied to one side of a long drawn-out war will split the two sides like never before. Who knows it may be a calculated move to achieve the very same objective once the terrorism was intended for.

    I belive all religious people must be held accountable for not praying to their respective Gods/gods during the 30 years of agony.


    • 5


      “I belive all religious people must be held accountable for not praying to their respective Gods/gods during the 30 years of agony.”

      Please keep religion and gods out of people’s life. Life and time are most precious to be left in the hands of Gods.

      Some asses like you vote for the most racist party in this island and expect god to sprinkle miracle to prevent disasters.

      God prays, “please save me from stupid Sri Lankans I can take care of my enemies”

      Stupid Sri Lankan ought to pray, “Oh god please save me from myself I can take care of my enemies”.

  • 2

    The Church and its leaders come forward as men ready with grave advise, while they have been the cause of great division and horrific events caused in their name.

    All this sounds utterly hypocritical. Self-scruntiny? What for? Will go men go to heaven definitely? NO. That is apparently the church doctrine. Instead, even a criminal can go theaven, by God’s grace!!!!!

    And it was God who created this world with all its evil, Nuclear Bombs and Tsunamis that kill innocent people. May be God should do the self-scrutiny and ask, what have I done? Why did I create this mess where most people suffer? God should self-scrutinize himself.

    Meanwhile, our Kururals and swami’s sing shlokas to not just one God, but a whole bunch of Gods. They are ready to sacrifice animals to Badhrakali or any one. Wigneswarana, and even Rajapaksa were ready to go to Nallur bare-bodied and with ash on their faces (but women are not allowed. It is not a gender equal society).

    It is the Bishops, Krurrals and Mullahs and Mahanayakes who should begin the self-scrutiny – Nay, it is God himself, for his messed up creation.

    Chikera has nothing to say of the misery of humanity – God’s creation.

  • 0

    Don’t Forget the alleged support for the LTTE through a leading christian school in Kandy after which the Principal was deported.Lets be honest the Religeous institutions have failed SL.

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