By Vishwamithra –
“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.” ~ Bertrand Russell
It took only one sermon for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the presumed leader of the Roman Catholic fraternity in Sri Lanka, to let loose his anger. In his uncontrolled anger, instead of laying emphasis on berating the very perpetrators of the said crime, Malcolm Ranjith chose to go after former President Maithripala Sirisena. Having been privy to the contents of the Presidential Commission Report on the horrendous atrocities committed by a yet-unknown group of criminals who unleashed unspeakable mayhem on a variety of selected locations on Easter Sunday, 2019, the Cardinal opted to become the judge, the jury and the executioner of a different player. A totally corrupt field of social dynamics, politics, has now been further desecrated by the Roman Catholic Church of Ceylon. What was once dominated by the Buddhist clergy, to a very indiscriminate degree, Sri Lanka’s politics has been cruelly and unexpectedly invaded by another religious denomination that has been hitherto dominated by the Buddhist order of clergy. It is indeed an unfortunate occurrence.
One can understand, even sympathize, if the Reverend Cardinal constrained himself to the known facts and the real culprits in this regard. He had no business talking so disparagingly of the former President. Scoring some cheap political points is very unbecoming of an officer of the Order, not to forget that he is the leader of that Order. Shame on you Malcolm Ranjit!
In this context, it is noteworthy that this writer has been extremely critical and even mercilessly candid when some Buddhist Monks including the notorious Galagoda Atte Gnanasara were parading the streets with hackneyed political slogans during the previous Rajapaksa regime. Religion, especially organized religion, has been the curse of this country, second only to the unbeatable politicians. Their indulgences have far exceeded their expected moral and ethical standards; the comforts they seek, luxuries they enjoy and patronage they pursue are not the ones that a parent would ask his or her child to follow. The Catholic Church has been spared of this indignity thanks mainly to some exemplary lives led by some of the predecessors of Malcolm Ranjit. But what one has to understand is that all these Monks and Priests, Pusaris and Imams, the clerical order of all religions, are ordinary human beings. Beneath their robes, cassocks, turbans and other paraphernalia live some of the most corrupt and corrupting human beings.
The power and attention that is attached to their positions and status so ordained by each religion grant them, so they assume, some irrevocable license to chase their own indulgences. However, unlike other religions, the Catholic Church is one religious order that maintains a rigid and quite an inflexible hierarchical order leading all the way up to the Vatican and its Vicar, the Pope. It is not my aim to make a comparative study of all religious orders, but suffice it to state that this rigidity and inflexibility in the Catholic order has had its advantages as well as some terrible disadvantages. Any softening of discipline on the part of the priests can be traced to the origins of the order and at no cost can the leader of that order be absolved.
If what Galagoda Atte Gnanasara did was wrong, so was what Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith did on Easter Sunday, 2021. While not retracting one word of criticism hurled at Gnanasara, the writer hastens to mention that what the Cardinal opted to do on Sunday, April 11, 2021 is inexcusable. He could have easily delivered his sermon, blaming those who planned, plotted and executed the attacks on his churches. Going after former President Sirisena was uncalled for. He has forgotten that there is another order in the country to punish Sirisena if in fact he was guilty of any crime connected with Easter attacks in 2021. That order is our judiciary. It is the hope and expectation of each and every citizen of Sri Lanka that an appropriate legal and judicial action would follow provided the findings of the Presidential Commission are found to be agreeable and worthy of further scrutiny. It is certainly not up to Malcolm Ranjit, whether he is the Cardinal resident in Sri Lanka or the very Pope pontificating from within the Vatican.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit was not all that vocal when his friends, the Rajapaksas, were fully in charge during the 2005 to 20014 period, marauding on the streets like licensed killers. His silence and was deafening. And his expressed opinions backing them were loud. Malcolm Ranjit should not forget that the lives that perished at the hands of the Rajapaksas included Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageet Ekneligoda, Rathupaswela and Katunayaka victims. This is not to forget the Jaffna journalists and Keith Noir, Upali Tennekoon and rest of those unsung heroes of Sri Lankan civil life. To single out former President Sirisena is absolutely wicked and dishonorable.
On April 27, 2019 Vishwamithra, under the heading ‘Easter Sunday Massacre, who is sabotaging the nation’s security’, wrote thus: ‘However, all these human follies and mundane errors cannot be held as a shield against legitimate and valid rancor of men and women of the ordinary kind. If those who fear to tread the usual paths and go to work to earn their living decide to stay at home, then those who committed these unspeakable criminal executions shall have prevailed in the end. If our ruler/s places his/their personal interests and preferences over and above those of the nation, then we need to look for other leaders who would not subordinate their people to narrow in-fights with his Cabinet colleagues. Such behavior is not only petty and narrow; it is indeed dangerous and perilous to the national cause of freedom, liberty and prosperity.
‘It’s time we thought outside the box, as the cliché goes. We had better look for leaders who place the country first and everything else second. The luxuries and comforts of ‘Office’ may have deadened the senses of our Executive; complexities and convolution of issues may have posed a challenge to an unsophisticated mind far too frequently and far too soon; that is the burden of leadership, the Executive alone should carry. No way can he escape that reality.
‘Yet who gains from these attacks on Easter Sunday in 2019? Politically, the government in power loses and it loses badly, and it cannot be helped. Containing the damage is the order of the day. Yet as to who gains is anyone’s guess. Those who preach discipline over freedom may think that their day has come. Yes, your day has come, to go that is. Some even have gone to a not-so-unbelievable end of putting two and two together and making it five, saying that the vicarious beneficiary of any uncertainty is the one who protrudes a false sense of stability by proposing neo-fascism. The danger looming large is really that- the sinister hand of fascism lurking in the dark.’
On the 2nd anniversary of these horrendous attacks on humanity, the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has come unhinged. In a most unbecoming oration of whatever he preached from atop the altar, this man in a white cassock has disgraced his robe, he has neglected his duties and above all he has failed the very teachings of Jesus Christ who never ever sought even a semblance of vengeance. In fact, his dying words were: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’.
In the much quoted and more-sought-after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached: ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (7:13-14)’. Malcolm Ranjit has chosen to enter the wide gate and broad road. Reverend Sir, you are one of the successors to St. Peter upon whom Jesus bestowed the enormous responsibility of shepherding the Christian flock. Then, Reverend Sir, follow your Master and keep away from the broad road and wide gate. It’s only the weak that choose the easy way out. It’s only the vulnerable who would choose his temporary power and lead the flock towards mayhem and anarchy. You’re not only unkind and narrow in thought, you’re plain stupid. And you deliberately chose to indulge in that dreaded distraction of politics. Politics is the very acronym for corruption, nepotism, cynicism and dishonesty, all put together. It’s dangerous and yet irresistibly attractive to the unholy and not-so-sublime.
Cardinal Ranjit, by opting to try his tongue and unsophisticated vocabulary during his Easter Sunday oration, disgraced his office. Thereby he made an opening for his antagonists to reciprocate. Therein lay the stupidity and shortsightedness. St. Peter said: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Malcolm Ranjith went way outside his clerical boundaries in producing a narrative about former President Sirisena that is palpably insulting and derogatory. His remarks may, for the time being, remain hidden and dormant, but when the time is ripe and elections approach, many a candidate contesting rural Sri Lankan electorates or districts would find them unbelievably useful to divide the community along religious lines. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit has become a problem, not one chosen to solve them.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com