By Fr J.C. Pieris –
Jesus and freedom
Jesus was a supremely and radically free human being. He was not a slave, a serf, a follower of anybody or under any authority human or divine. There was nothing, no commandment or tradition, no law or regulation that could bind him down. He did not give his companions and his group a constitution or a set of rules to follow. At the end of his earthly carrier of just three years, he gave them one, only one, commandment or rather a guideline. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Living with Jesus this is what his disciples saw and experienced, the freedom and love of Jesus, and to this they bore witness even unto death.
Democracy and freedom
A citizen is a free person in his country. In the ancient Greece and Rome, where the seeds of democracy were sowed, free citizens were only men who were citizens by descent. Women, children and slaves could not vote. Even for men there were different types of citizenship with various restrictions to full freedom. Democracy and freedom developed and evolved historically to what it is today in non-totalitarian countries. Freedom of a citizen is still developing even in the democratic countries. So, keeping the freedom of Jesus as a benchmark let us discuss the freedom of the citizens of Sri Lanka, our country.
Jesus and God
Before we proceed further it is necessary to show evidence for and confirm what I had said in the opening paragraph. Jesus did not bow his head or bend his knee to anyone or any authority, human or divine. Yes, even divine. Jesus called God “Abba”, a cuddly childlike word like “Thaththi” or “Daddy”, he did not use the formal word “Father”. He was God’s son and he told others they are God’s children. For Jesus God is family. In the intimacy of a loving family all are equal, nobody bends his knee or bows his head to anybody else. It was clearly enunciated in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The loving father (God) did not want his younger son to be a servant or a slave in his household. This is the radical freedom that Jesus exercised and enjoyed.
Jesus, authority and fear
Jesus was an authority unto himself. He was free from and above all other authorities. People said he spoke with authority. In the ancient Jewish milieu the authority of the Torah was never questioned. But Jesus taught saying “You were told (by Torah) …but I tell you …” The famous saying that the Sabbath rule was made for man and not man for the Sabbath rule exemplifies it. He freely broke the clean and unclean rules by eating and socializing with tax collectors and sinners, the hoi polloi, the “anavim” or the poorest and the “thrown away people” as Pope Francis calls them. He feared none. He chased out the sellers of animals and money changers from the Temple premises telling them that the Temple was a House of Prayer not a den of thieves. Whether it is Herod the satrap, the chief priests or the imperial governor he would accost them with his head held high on equal terms. Anybody perusing the trial of Jesus cannot avoid noticing how Jesus never showed any fear or subservience to his judges or the crowd or the soldiers. Even after Pilate got him bloodied and showed him to the crowd Jesus was unbowed and unbent. Pilate could not but say to the chief priests and the mob “Ecce Homo”. “Here is a MAN” or “Behold a MAN” in the full Kipling sense of the word.
Love and freedom
The secret of the radical freedom of Jesus was his total and transparent selflessness or his love. He loved as no man ever loved on this planet. He loved people in the same manner as he loved God, his Abba. If one loves as Jesus loved he can do no wrong and do no harm. He doesn’t need commandments, rules, regulations or customs and traditions to make society safe from and for him. As Augustine of Hippo said “Love, and do what you like.” A man or woman who loves as Jesus loved becomes fearless and free.
Are Sri Lankans free?
The obvious answer is that the great majority is not. They can be very easily deceived and led by the nose. It is pathetic to see 6.9 million people making fools of themselves. First of all they are affiliated to parties, ideologies and all kinds of isms and follow blindly any leader without making an evaluation or analysis of the party manifesto or the character of the man they follow. Secondly they believe in myth and superstition. Thirdly fear dominates their lives. What democracy can you have with such people?
The super charlatans
Didn’t the 6.9 million know about the Rajapaksas and the tsunami funds? Didn’t they ever wonder how his three brats were spending like nothing and living it up like playboys? Have they never heard of Siriliya? Have they never heard of the deals between the Krish and the Rajapaksas? Didn’t they ever realize what an enormous amount of money has been wasted on useless white elephants, like the Lotus Tower, the Sooriyawewa Stadium, the Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Conference Hall? Why is it that the murderers of Thajudeen and Lasantha Wickrematunga can never be discovered? The revelation, from circumstantial evidence, is that Adani Group probably has dealings with the Rajapaksas. The Pandora Papers expose has raised the Rajapaksas to the notorious status of International Crooks. This is only the tip of the iceberg. If the 6.9 million had only scratched the garbage heap a little they would have found much more.
Lies, myth and superstition
With a loud noise a cobra emerges from the Kelany River carrying a casket of relics and 6.9 million rush with flowers to worship and gaze on the relics! The media too degenerates so low as to make falsehood truth and myth fact. A Muslim surgeon goes on a sterilizing spree of Sinhala mothers to the tune of thousands! That particular media institution never accepted they made a mistake or apologized for it because it deliberately spread fake news with an evil political intention. Upali must be blushing with shame in his sea or land grave. They believed in scandalous tales about infertility Kottu and infertility garments. Everybody knows but nobody says who the brains behind the Easter Sunday massacre are. Some guessed who it was quite soon. In any crime, the prime suspect is the one who profited most from it. Ask any police detective. Among the 6.9 million there were monks, intellectuals, professionals and artistes who were taken for a jolly good ride. The world was surprised that the citizens of Sri Lanka have such low IQ and can be so easily fooled.
Charlatans and scoundrels leading a country of fools and morons does not amount to democracy. Our democracy is only in name.
A glimmer of hope
Our young generation (between 20-40)called the digital generation or the FB, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsup, Imo, Viber and You Tube generation has given us through their “Aragalaya” a glimmer of hope. They are politically and socially more aware. A truth seeking, more rational, logical and an independent thinking generation. If they were of the 6.9 million, with humility they accepted their mistake and joined the Aragalaya with a vehemence. They are free from affiliation to any political party or ism or hero worshipping. They are more altruistic and affectionate. They are fearless and courageous. They are truly a new generation.
I gauged them at the Galle Face Gotagogama. The Aragalaya can be defined with the three words they always use, Nirpakshika, Nirprachanda and Aadaraya. Nirpakshika means they are not followers or slaves of anybody, any party or any ism. They are free; they think for themselves and they decide for themselves. Doesn’t this remind us of the freedom of Jesus? Nirprachanda means non-violence stemming from human solidarity. Aragalaya is an experience of solidarity; not the narrow solidarity of groups of the same race, religion, language, class, caste or political party but the all-inclusive solidarity of the human race. This is the ethos of Jesus. Finally they called their movement Aadaraye Aragalaya. “Love one another as I have loved you”. Reading the four Gospels in the New Testament one can clearly see that the three year Aragalaya of Jesus was truly an Aadaraye Aragalaya.
The Aragalaya led by the new generation revealed what is truly necessary for democracy. Aragalaya was democratic as it never had a clear leader. All were welcome to come forward and share their opinion. Various individuals were spokespersons for it but Aragalaya went on, a common project of the people. Everybody shared equal responsibility for the spontaneous project, in such a way that all were leaders. Aragalaya formed citizens fit for true democracy. And that has given us a glimmer of hope. Democracy, not just in name but in practice, is possible in Sri Lanka. The good news of Nirpakshika, Nirprachanda and Aadaraye prajatantravadaya must be spread, island wide. It is already spreading. This is the foundation for the system change we are looking for. And this is what frightens the enemies of Aragalaya, the Ali Baba and the 225 thieves. They know their evil system is in its death throes. With PTA, emergency, suppression, new alliances, new parties, fake news and all kinds of crooked deals they are fighting for their survival. They will be vanquished.