28 October, 2021

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State Militarists Vs. ‘Church Militant’?

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The signs are there and they aren’t good. It started weeks ago. Minister Sarath Weerasekara and Secretary/Defense Maj General Kamal Gunaratna’s responses to the questions and criticisms by the Cardinal and the Catholic Church were hardly respectful and were rather testy. They were also irrelevant. Their truculent defense was that a large number of suspects had been indicted and that the slow pace was inherent in the legal process. But that didn’t answer the questions raised and points made by the Cardinal and the spokespersons of the Church.

There was also the episode of the Foreign Minister, Prof Peiris seeking an audience with the Cardinal, not obtaining it and meeting the Papal Nuncio instead, while a Cabinet spokesperson Dr Ramesh Pathirana said on the record that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would meet Pope Francis during his visit to Italy.

The Cardinal then made the point that any attempt to bypass the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka and whitewash the Easter inquiry internationally just wouldn’t work, and that the Church having desisted from going global with its grievances, would now begin to do so.

Anti-Christian Track-Record

Meanwhile Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara, the notorious head of the notorious Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) got into the act and criticized the Church and the Cardinal, while defending the regime. He was soon joined by a few other such organization of the far-right clergy. This was significant because these organizations were actively spewing Islamophobia in the postwar years, starting around 2012, including in and around Aluthgama in 2014. This was way before the birth of Islamist jihadi terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Still more significant was the re-entry by Ven. Dr Medagoda Abeytissa, who quite strenuously attacked the narrative of the Cardinal and the Church on the Easter attack. Ven. Abeytissa is an influential member of the inner circle of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He is on the Buddhist Advisory Council of the President, and years earlier, he was a member of the pro-GR caucus ‘Eliya’.

Starting a few weeks back, the Sri Lankan (presumably Catholic) communities in Bologna, London and New York, demonstrated, calling for justice and accountability for the Easter massacre.

Most recently, and weirdly, a Navy team (or teams) visited certain churches and warned of possible attacks. The next day they apologized saying a mistake had been made. What was the mistake? Was the information false or unverified, in which case why did they share it, and if not, was the mistake to have given a warning, and if so, how could that conceivably be a mistake?

The religious Far-Right which is as much a component of the hardcore of the Gotabaya presidency as its counterpart was of the Trump presidency, with the other component in the case of President GR being the ex-military brass (unlike in Trump’s case) has a history of being anti-Christian in general (no pun intended) and anti-Catholic in particular. This was so from the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa when the Far Right within the deep state was literally calling the shots. Be it in Katunayake, Chilaw or Rathupaswela, the dead were Catholics. Troops went into a church at Rathupaswela, pointed guns at nuns, and according to eyewitness accounts, were responsible for the death of a young man who had sheltered in the church and phoned his wife from within it.

It was during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term that he was faced with a most embarrassing issue. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had refused to attend the traditional Christmas even hosted by the President unless a Catholic nun was released from detention. In a ghastly first, a Catholic nun belonging to the order of Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa) of Calcutta, had been locked up by the Sri Lankan state. President MR pushed through her release.

Cardinal Importance

The regime cannot expect to fob the Catholic Church off with the response that there are over a hundred cases in the pipeline against those involved in the Easter attack. The Cardinal and Church spokespersons have asked several concrete questions, none of which are covered by the State’s answer so far. The questions emanate from the vantage point the Church held of having representation at the Presidential commission of Inquiry and thus having been present and keenly intent throughout the process. The queries seem to be the following:

1. Why wasn’t the complete report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry released to the public, and at the least, to the Church? Why was a severely truncated version, redacted by a governmental team which included the President’s brother, released instead?

2. What of the detailed information repeatedly received from an Indian source/sources, and ignored or not presented (as a matter of urgency) either to those higher-ups on the ladder, or to the Church hierarchy? Who is to be held accountable and punished for this egregious crime?

3. What of the alleged meeting/discussion between one of the suicide-bombers and an alleged officer of Military Intelligence, after the suicide-bomber abandoned one target and before he detonated himself at another? What was the relationship between the officer and the suicide-terrorist? What transpired in the conversation?

4. Why was the said officer allegedly released by Military Intelligence while being questioned by the CID about the incident?

5. Who was allegedly code-named ‘Sonic-Sonic’ and what of the supposed telephonic effort to a Zahran Jr. (‘little Zahran’) overseas in order to secure ownership of the attacks by ISIS/ISIL?

It would be a good idea for the Foreign Minister or the Justice Minister to respond squarely to these questions, with the degree of transparency, rationality and civility required.

Comprehending the Church

In the meantime, the religious Far Right in the state (in Cabinet and high-officialdom) society should be briefed on the possible blowback which should be adequately factored-in.

The Catholic Church is the oldest and largest international institution in the world. It numbers 1.4 million adherents.

It has enormous ‘soft power’ and influence. Joe Biden is a Catholic. So is Jake Sullivan (NSA). So are UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

All of Latin America and the Ibero-American and Hispanic world is Catholic and many more countries are Christian. That amounts to many votes in UN bodies, and a shaping influence on world opinion.

The Cardinal, the Catholic Bishops conference and the priests and nuns cannot be deceived or diverted by indicting small-fry or sacrificing scapegoats. Simply to become a priest take 17 years of formal education, including degrees where the examiners are in the top universities in Rome. Further up the ladder, many have PhDs from reputed European universities. The Catholic clergy is ensured a diversity of experience and cross-training through rotation from the poorest Sri Lankan communities to churches in New York City.

The Church cannot be divided. Certainly, there have been and are serious ideological differences in the universal church (progressives, liberals, conservatives) as well as in its Sri Lankan unit. However, the Catholic Church is the global institution that has shown the greatest success in balancing unity and local autonomy.

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka may have had more than one view on Cardinal Ranjith (some recall his theological conservatism on the issue of Fr Tissa Balasuriya, others his sympathetic ear for Mahinda Rajapaksa) but on the issue of the Easter massacre and after, the Church is at one, in solid support for and defense of the Cardinal, for his courageous stand.

I can also testify from my interactions with the Papal representatives in Geneva, Paris and Moscow, the UNHRC and UNESCO, that he is held in very high esteem in the Vatican. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith was moved up by three quite diverse Popes: John Paul II, Benedict and Francis. Proficient in seven languages, at age 57 he was a Cardinal, one of the few in Asia, and a member of the College of Cardinals, the electoral college that chooses the Pope, the spiritual leader of 1.4 billion of the world’s people.

Church Militant

The Church and the Catholic community, whether in Sri Lanka or any other part of the world, cannot be cowed or intimidated. Martyrdom is part of the genetic code of Catholics, who unlike jihadists, will not kill for their cause but will die for it.

The Sri Lankan regime is probably unaware of what the three manifestations of the Catholic Church are called. According to theology, the Church in Heaven is called the ‘Church Triumphant’. The Church in Purgatory is called the ‘Church Suffering’.

Most pertinent is what the Catholic congregation living on earth is called. It is titled the ‘Church Militant’. It is so named because as St Paul wrote to the Ephesians, it “wrestles…against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

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Latest comments

  • 14
    11

    Did Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith lift a finger when the Sri Lankan Air force bombers were bombing for several years in the North and East killing many Tamils in the churches themselves?

    He is a Sinhala Majoritarian humbug who is not concerned about the indiscriminate killing of innocent Tamils by the Sri Lankan security forces during the war.

    He supported the war against Tamils claiming them to be terrorists.

    When Tamil Catholics were fighting for the lives and rights of Tamils, Sinhala Catholics including Ranjith were supporting the majoritarian state terrorists.

    There is no monolithic Catholic church in Sri Lanka.

    • 4
      18

      Thiru,
      “Did Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith lift a finger when the Sri Lankan Air force bombers were bombing for several years in the North and East killing many Tamils in the churches themselves?”
      —-
      By the same token Sinhala Buddhists can ask what did Cardinals and the Catholic Church do when Catholic Tamils massacred Native Sinhala Buddhist men, women, children and even fetus of pregnant Sinhala women using suicide bombers, land mines, claymore bombs, chemical weapons, swords and machetes and Catholic Tamil priests gave blessings to LTTE terrorists who wanted to grab a piece of land from Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo?

      • 2
        3

        EE,

        That was a war between Buddhist terrorists and Tamil terrorists. A historical war since the time of Dutugemunui. Why should the others get involved?

        • 3
          1

          GATAM

          “That was a war between Buddhist terrorists and Tamil terrorists. A historical war since the time of Dutugemunui. Why should the others get involved?”

          Don’t be silly.
          It was a war between descendants of two sets of Kallathonies.

          Who is this Dutugemunui?

      • 3
        3

        This bloke Thiru looks to me an agent of Gnasara, to ignite a clash between Catholic Sinhalese with Tamil Hindus. LTTE, was a ruthless outfit and need to be expunged. It was a menace, in war setting even innocent people get killed despite taking precautions.

        The Easter bombing was totally different, people who gathered to pray on Easter Sunday was killed without even knowing there was threat.

        You better go for brain surgery

        • 3
          1

          90% of the so-called Catholic Chingkallams, including the very unChristian Cardinal, were Thamizh a generation or two ago. Read the history of the so-called Chingkallam Catholic northwest coast. It was Tamil a hundred years ago. If LTTE was ruthless, what do you called Chingkallams like you and all racist Chingkalla led governments from the time of independence, that have killed over 300000 innocent Thamizh civilians, displaced over a million and forced them to flee the island, made another 1 million stateless and forcibly deported most of them to India, reduced the island’s Thamizh population from around 26% at the time of independence, to 15.4 % within 70 years, denied Thamizh people higher education, employment, language rights and stole over 30% of their land? Before posting racist nonsense and garbage, please use your brain, that is if you have one. Commit genocide war crimes ethnic cleansing and marginalization of the island’s Thamizh population in their own land, using the resources of the state and then when the Thamizh fight back, call them terrorists. What your Chingkalla state did were terrorism and war crimes. The vast majority of the Chingkalla Catholics are from the Karawa, Salagama caste, whose ancestors arrived from Thamizh South India a few centuries ago.

        • 3
          1

          Thiru has stated the truth and if you do not like it there is no need to threaten him and the Tamils with violence. Typical Sinhalese racist response, whenever Tamils state the truth or demand for justice. Threaten violence or commit violence against Tamils. You still have not got out of that mindset. No wonder this land will not improve. Please google and read the recent Tamil origins of most of the so-called Sinhalese Catholics. Go to the so-called Sinhalese Catholic belt along the Northwest coast or even just north of Colombo and see the place names the people, you immediately get the feeling that these areas were recently Tamil. If the LTTE was or is a terrorist then what were the actions of the Sri Lankan state against the Tamils and what they did to them? What the LTTE did was nothing to what the Sri Lankan state did to the Tamils and is still doing. There would have been no LTTE if the Sri Lankan state had not committed atrocities on the Tamils and denied them their just rights and started stealing their lands.

        • 2
          1

          Jayel17

          “LTTE, was a ruthless outfit and need to be expunged.”

          So was JVP.
          Why JVP is being allowed to continue and not LTTE?
          If LTTE was ruthless why did Premadasa and Mahinda deal with LTTE?

          Most in this forum know that I am bit thick.
          Please bear with me.

          “You better go for brain surgery”

          Thanks.
          Could you let us have the contact details where brain surgery is being carried out. We have 6.9 million people who need brain surgery, obviously starting from ලොක්කා (boss).

  • 5
    5

    Dr. Dayan, Excellent analysis. Putin is a baptized orthodox christian with immovable belief though external living out is not perfected yet like all humans. USA, UK, Canada, Australia and others have been established on the christian basic foundation that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (easter resurrection) and is alive now in heaven and will come again to rule in righteousness and justice. Your revelation that martyrs die for and not kill for is the dividing line, the only absolute truth. Self opinions or philosophy is unable to grasp creator and hence bows to trees, water, sun, moon and stars, deceiving fallen angels you mentioned as rulers of darkness over the atmosphere, the occult demonic all over the earth, all gods with fallen satan who craves worship and hinders to steal, kill and destroy. Simple prayer request is only way to reconnect to creator and be on his winning side. Hell was prepared for satan and his fallen angels. Mat.25,41. God loves all humans.

  • 3
    2

    Not at all a balanced one but more putting the blame on the church instead. ?

    No right to say that islam millitants would not die for their causes. Anyways, we are familiar with DJ’s thoughts and minds over the years.
    .
    I have no idea about many in our slaves dominated srilanka today, however, I think if law and order would treat not throug cherry picking, in selecting them, things would have ameliorated palpably. In this regard, senior lawyer, with his own exp in numerous cases , singlehandedly and fearlessly settled by him, honourable Kodithuwakku ‘s visiion is not against that of mine. He sounds as if he would not be a person for a team work, but I still believe, what he has suggested could make the real change that the educated masses dream of becoming true for their youth in this country; it is to give its due place in the society. If there is no “law and order” being implemented equally, nothing would go for the benefit of the masses. One law to their condom supporters and other law to average citizens, is the deadly cancer, seen in today’s politics.

  • 13
    2

    Unfortunately Gotabaya has unleashed Buddhist terrorists again, this time on Christians. Squeezed by poverty, food crisis, debt crisis, foreign exchange crisis, negative economic growth rate since he came to power, etc. the only way out for them in elections is to start race riots. Rajapaksas are no strangers to riots.

    In Rajapaksas’s first term Buddhist terrorists targeted Tamils demanding war or death (Trincomalee July 2006), committing alleged war crimes, and hailing them as victories, etc.

    In Rajapaksas’s second term Buddhist terrorists targeted Muslims inciting riots, mosque attacks, burning mosques by mobs backed by the army and BBS terrorism. They even brought down 969 Buddhist terrorists from Burma to Colombo!

    Despite losing the election in 2015, Buddhist terrorists attacked a safe house of Rohingya women and children led by the saffrons.

    In Rajapaksas’s third term (starting from October 2018 which was disrupted) Buddhist terrorists targeted Christians. Unfortunately this will last for another 3 miserable years.

    The problem is the 3 minorities making up 30% of the population are not united. If they are united, getting 20% from reasonable Buddhists is not impossible.

    All 3 minority creeds must unite against Buddhist terrorism of Polpot-sena Rajapaksa.

    • 4
      15

      GATAM,
      “Unfortunately Gotabaya has unleashed Buddhist terrorists again, this time on Christians.”
      —-
      There is something wrong in your brain. Terrorist attacks against Christians were carried out by Muslims; not by Buddhists. All the terrorists shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ before they blew up and went to heaven to have a nice time with angels.
      Buddhists who are non-violent have not resorted to terrorism against Hindus, Catholics or Muslims but Hindus, Catholics or Muslims in Sinhale/Sri Lanka resorted to terrorism against Native Sinhala Buddhists.
      —-
      Please check your brain before you use the keyboard again.

      • 4
        1

        EE,

        I have checked my brain and professional opinion is it is fine. Why don’t you check yours and a few more organs too for overuse?

        Sure they shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ which is not very relevant. Did you hear about the Sorry Lanka Buddhist monk who killed the PM – SWRDB in 1959 shouting my nation, my language, my Buddhism? Did the Buddhist monk kill the PM in the name of the nation, language, Buddhism?

        Same thing.

        Who paid for their radicalization? Mahinda accepted he and Gota paid a monthly radicalization fee since 2010 until 2015 for their radicalization from the same account they paid Badu Bala Sena the Buddhist terrorist group.

        Ever wondered why they attacked Easter Sunday and not Wesak?

    • 12
      2

      I agree. The minorities in this country have been consistently targeted, at one time or the other, by Buddhist extremists, who take advantage of their numbers, and that the leaders eventually need their vote, and end up ignoring their crimes.
      It is time they all united (including the many fair minded Buddhists), ignored the efforts to divide them, and become a strong front to withstand the discrimination and violence against them. There is safety in numbers. The Rajapaksa’s have used religion to divide and set one against the other, and they only care about amassing their ill gotten wealth, rather than the unity and progression of this country.

  • 8
    2

    The question for Buddhists in Sri Lanka?
    Do you think Buddhism is better philosophy than Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam? if So, what way?
    Does Buddhism supports or encourage Terrorism, Violence, and discrimination?
    Do Buddhists need the answers to the questions raised by Christians about the Government’s investigations?
    What roles Buddhists can play in bringing the truth about this Bomb Blast?
    Do you think the Bomb Blast is either against to the country or sri Lankan Christians?

    • 3
      13

      Ajith,
      “What roles Buddhists can play in bringing the truth about this Bomb Blast?
      Do you think the Bomb Blast is either against to the country or sri Lankan Christians?”
      —-
      ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims. Instead of dragging Buddhists into the bomb blast and asking silly questions, go and ask ISIS if you have any questions.

      • 5
        1

        Eagle Blind Eye

        “Instead of dragging Buddhists into the bomb blast and asking silly questions, go and ask ISIS if you have any questions.”

        Well dumbo, all questions are aimed at Sinhala/Buddhists and not at naive Buddhists who have been mislead by the bigoted racists like you, Wimal, ….. Banda, Rajapaksas, ….. Chamal, Asgiria, ….. public racist Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala.

        • 2
          1

          Poor EE tries to cover up the crimes committed by Rajapaksas against Sri Lanka and its people including Sinhalese. Even the Buddhist monks who helped Gota and Mahinda to come to power now say that Rajapaksas are criminals and asking the questions about the role Rajapaksas in the Easter Bombing. Unfortunately I think EE is part of Rajapaksas family.So, what he can do other than just try to convince Buddhist Sinhala using the words “terrorism”. Let him to —-.

      • 5
        0

        But EE, even your beloved Mahintha admitted to a Buddhist monk that he and his dumb brother paid a monthly radicalization fee to Zaharan and the team since 2010 from the same bank account that paid Badu Bala Sena the Buddhist terrorist group.

        Ever wondered why Zaharan and the team attacked Easter Sunday and not Wesak (where they could have done far more damage)?

        Think.

  • 2
    1

    Though I am a fully lapsed Christian (though I am twice baptized, once as a Catholic and then as an “Anglican” as they were known in the long forgotten past) and am an agnostic tending to atheism, I must say that I am glad to see a few Catholics, at least, standing up to bullying by SB extremists and Lanka’s SB state. Many others have got their tails between their legs. (“Why doesn’t Ranjit shut up and go have another big swig of the sacramental wine” types)

    • 4
      0

      All minorities (Christians, Hindus and Muslim) must unite against Buddhist terrorism that is once again trying to start riots.

      A familiar set of events in,

      1). 1883 riot (to celebrate the design of the Buddhist flag)
      2). 1915 riot (Bodh Gaya celebrations)
      3). 1939 riot (celebration of Wesak recognition)
      4). 1956 – 2,500 Buddha Jayanthi celebration followed by riots in 1958
      5). Dharmishta Samajaya with Dharma Chakra celebration in 1982 followed by riots in 1983
      6). 1987 – golden roof to Dalada Maligawa followed by mass murder of 30,000 in 1989
      7). 2009 Wesak celebration – massacre of 40,000 Tamils
      8). 2011 – 2,600 Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi celebration followed by Aluthgama, Rathupaswala, etc. riots in 2013.

      • 0
        4

        GATAM,
        A desperate attempt to clean blood-soaked hands of Muslim terrorists.

        • 1
          0

          EE,

          No. Blood is in your hands, etc.

          The lion flag has 4 Bo leaves in a background of blood!

          A history of violence against minorities.

          You should be glad I didn’t mention other killings like Lasantha, etc. Almost all journalists killed or tortured were Christians, Muslims and Hindus.

          Eknaligoda and other exceptions are there. They were abducted for revealing the use of chemical weapons by the Buddhist army against minorities.

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