By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
At the height of the 33-year-old war – i.e., from the Vadukoddai declaration of war on May 14, 1976 to Nandikadal on May 18, 2009 — two Tamil clerics decided to give a face-lift to Tamil politics by dressing it up in new clothes of Christian theology. Under the cover of waging “a war of liberation” even the so-called moderates had accepted “Tamil fascism” (Dr. Rajan Hoole) as a necessary means to achieve their political end. Any one who questioned “Tamil fascism” was condemned and, wherever possible, eliminated as a traitor. The Tamil terror unleashed by Velupillai Prabhakaran to maintain his supremacy as “the sole representative of the Tamils” tolerated no dissent. Any threat to his reign of terror was snuffed out swiftly. The New York Times labelled Prabhakaran as “the latest Pol Pot of Asia”. The University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, the only courageous voice of the dissenting Tamil intellectuals, was documenting in detail the horrors coming out of the womb of Jaffna. Eventually, the LTTE headed by Velupillai Prabhakaran was banned as a terrorist organisation by the international community.
The Churchmen who were witnesses to the rise of the Pol Potist cult in the North went along with it, religiously blessing the fascist horrors unfolding before their eyes. They decided to embrace the Tamil Pol Potist cult in preference to the elected government of the day which they branded as “the Sinhala government”. In short, they hailed Tamil fascism under one-man rule as the better alternative to the multi-cultural democratic norms that ruled the nation, with all its imperfections, in the post-independent era. The Vadukoddai violence incrementally morphed into the North-South war which was waged exclusively by the intransigent and implacable Velupillai Prabhakaran. He dragged it on for 33 years. The peninsula became the battleground for the three main combatants – Sri Lankan Force, Indian Forces and Prabhakaran’s Forces. It was the Tamils of the North who suffered most. More than any other force, the Tamils who were expecting “liberation” became the victims of the dreaded cult of Tamil Pol Potism.
In contrast, the Sri Lankan Government continued to conduct its war against the Tamil terrorists within a democratic framework, however fragile and defective it may have been. Tamil politics, on the other hand, had descended into the depraved depths of fascist politics. It was desperately in need of moral justifications. The Christian Churches of the North, dominated by Tamils, were already in the thick of Tamil separatist politics, lending a helping hand to Prabhakaran. Through the global network of Christian Churches, they were in the forefront either justifying or manufacturing excuses for Tamil violence. Their modus operandi was to paint the Tamils as the victims of the oppressive Sri Lankan government without mentioning that the Tamils penned inside Prabhakaran’s Pol Potist regime were never invited to the grand birthday parties of his children, or to swim in the pool built for him to cool off in the heat of the dry zone. While Prabhakaran even siphoned off the food and medicine sent by the Government of Sri Lanka to fatten his family and his cadres protecting him, the Churchmen accused of the Government of Sri Lanka of using food as a weapon of war to deprive the Tamils of essentials for their survival.
The Tamil Churchmen were doing their utmost best in propagandising from the pulpit, through parish letters and lobbying from Rome to every possible Tamil home. But the Churchmen were desperately in need of a Christianised justification for their role in aiding and abetting Tamil separatism – a movement that turned Tamil against Tamils, and took the lives of more Tamils than all the other forces put together, as stated by S.C. Chandrahasan, the son of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of Tamil separatism. The putative Tamil theologians stepped in to undertake a rescue mission that would sanitize Tamil violence and make it a respectable and acceptable force in the eyes of the world. Prabhakaran too depended heavily on the Churchmen to whitewash his crimes against humanity, particularly his crimes against his own Tamil people. And the Churchmen fanned out into various corners of Christendom to present Prabhakaran as a latter day saint who had risen to rescue the oppressed Tamils.
What was missing in the pro-separatist campaign of the Churches was a theology to justify and / or cover up the horrors of the Tamil violence that erupted in the post-Vadukoddai Resolution period. It was easy for the the Churchmen to twist the ground realities and project the Government of Sri Lanka as demonic force. But the theoretical difficulty was in elevating the crimes of Prabhakaran to the dizzy heights of a divine force.
Of course, any attempt to rationalise and justify the “Pol Potist” violence of Prabhakaran was an uphill task. But to construct a theology to sanitise it was impossible. But that is precisely what Rev. S. J. Emmanuel, former Vicar-General of Jaffna, and the head of Global Tamil Forum (GTF) , and Rt. Rev. Dr. Bishop S. Jebanesan promised to do for Tamil separatism. Rev. Emmanuel was the first to announce his decision to construct a Tamil theology. He played a prominent role when the LTTE forced the Tamils to move out of Jaffna into Vanni, hoping to leave a vacant city for the Security Forces advancing into the heart of Jaffna. The Diasporic propaganda machine was also intent on impressing the world that the Tamils were leaving voluntarily in support of their LTTE “liberators”.
Rev. Emmanuel was the chief propagandist marketing this myth. But the following snippet from the University Teachers Human Rights, Jaffna, report tells the hidden story of the forcible eviction of Tamils by the LTTE: “On October 30th, 1995, it (the LTTE) forced almost the entire population to move our of Jaffna City and Valikamam. It had already sent out agents to the West, including a member of the Christian clergy, to spread the word that a humanitarian crisis had resulted from 500,000 people spontaneously fleeing their homes to escape the Sri Lankan Army and to be with the Tigers.” (P. 384 — The Arrogance of Power, Myths, Decadence and Murder, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), (July 2001). It was, as stated by Prof. Hoole, a “crisis engineered by the LTTE” (ibid) and the clergyman who went to the West to be the messenger boy of Prabhakaran was Rev. Emmanuel. He wrote a pamphlet titled Let my People Go, claiming to be the Tamil Moses who virtually led the Tamil exodus that was herded out of Jaffna by the LTTE to Vanni. As the dedicated acolyte of Prabhakaran, he continues to “theologise” even now to boost his myth of projecting Prabhakaran as the “liberator” virtually on par with Jesus. (A sample of his latest “theology” was published in Colombo Telegraph – November 25, 2015). His “theological” defence will be dealt with later.
Dr. Bishop S. Jebanesan, is the second Tamil cleric to announced his decision to construct a theology for the Tamils only. He is the co-author of The Bible Trembled, a scholarly study of the early Christian influences and confrontations in Hindu Jaffna society. He declared later in an interview with Prof. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole published in the Daily Mirror that he too was engaged in writing a theology for the Tamils. In response, I questioned (also in the Daily Mirror) the validity of manufacturing a Christian theology for the Tamils ONLY which meant excluding the Sinhala Christians. It was obvious that any attempt to construct a theology exclusively for a single tribe would run counter to the universal humanism of Christianity. Any theology written exclusively for the Tamils would have been a racist exercise excluding the Christians in the majority Sinhala community. In their blind eagerness to boost the bloody politics the Tamil theologians were, either wittingly or unwittingly, trying to create two Christianities – one for the Tamils and one for the Sinhalese. But Jesus belongs to all Christians, irrespective of race, and to hijack his universal principles to promote partisan politics of any one community is an exercise in futility, if not stupidity.
The greatness and the universality of Christianity is in the historical fact that Jesus took God out of the hands of his own Semitic tribe — the Hebrews who claimed the sole ownership of God by proclaiming that they were the chosen people of God — and made Him the saviour of all mankind. He made Christianity an inclusive means for all believers to access God without handing the ownership to any chosen tribe dwelling in an exclusive enclave . Any attempt by the two Tamil clerics to write a theology exclusively for the Tamils would have meant tribalizing God as if a single tribe had been given the unique privilege of monopolising God for their benefit alone. Writing an exclusive theology for the Tamils alone is a contradiction which cannot be reconciled with the basic principles of Christian universalism. An exclusive theology for a chosen tribe is the most un-Christian doctrine imaginable.
But for the Tamil Churchmen the pull of Tamil separatist politics was stronger than the fundamental principles of non-violent Christianity. The magnetic idea of Tamil separatism had dragged the Churchmen deep into Tamil politics. In the predominantly Hindu society of Jaffna it was the Tamil Churchmen who took the lead, both internationally and nationally, to politicize religion with the sole aim of dividing Sri Lanka on ethnic lines. Their objective was to elevate Tamil politics to a higher moral/spiritual plane, if that was possible, with a newly constructed Christian theology exclusively for the Tamils. Their thinking was that a separate theology was necessary to go along with a separate state. Apart from this the Churchmen had a hidden agenda : a separate Tamil theology in the separate Tamil state would pave the way to establish an exclusive Tamil clerical hierarchy without kow-towing to the higher-ups in the national ecclesiastical bureaucracy who would naturally be Sinhalese.
Though in the eyes of God all creatures, big and small, are equal the Tamil clerics felt that their superior Tamilness can be maintained only under Tamil hierarchy in the Church bureaucracy. In fact, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of separatism, left the Anglican Church and joined the South Indian Church to pray for the same God. He was comfortable in his Tamil ambience, praying in a Tamil church for a God to whom Tamils can relate without going through Sinhala channels. The only difficulty they faced was making God into an ethnic Vellahla Tamil. Short of that they were planning to Tamilise everything else.
Christian theology, like all Abrahamic theisms, claims its origins from divine sources. But the Tamil clerics decided to produce a man-made theology exclusively for the Tamil tribe. It was bound to be a partisan political exercise for the creation of an exclusive ethnic enclave rather than a pure spiritual exploration pointing the way to the promised Biblical realms of eternal salvation. Eelam, like the Mosesian Promised Land, was on terra firma. It was diametrically opposed to the Promised Land of Jesus which was not of this earth. As it turned out, the politicised “theologies” of the Churches ended in offering political candles / pandans to worship the Satanic “Sooriya Devan” rather than the loving God, the Father of all humanity.
Part of the cult to concoct a theology exclusively for the Tamils came from the desperate need of the Tamil Churchmen to prove that God was on their side. This exclusive Tamil theology was going to be the ultimate argument that would silence the critics, sceptics and dissidents. It was going to be a divine justification for Tamil separatism and subhuman violence generated by Tamil politics which has been detailed graphically by Prof. Rajan Hoole, in his collection of incisive and candid essays, titled The Arrogance of Power, Myths, Decadence and Murder, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), (July 2001). But no theology – Tamil or otherwise – could justify or sanctify the unspeakable brutalities that came out of the subhuman womb of Jaffna. It baffled even a perceptive analyst like Prof Rajan Hoole who consistently refused to pussy-foot around the crimes committed by the Tamils against the Tamils and, of course, the NGOs. What he witnessed and reported exposed the hidden layers of the fascist culture of Jaffna. Jaffna was bleeding to death. In one of his article he grieved and wondered how the abominable cruelties could have come out of the womb of Jaffna.
The Bible, of course, has been used down the ages to justify diverse political regimes and extremist dogmas boosting the superiority of a chosen race / nation. The political aim of these manufactured theologies has been to claim that God is on their side and not on the side of their opponents / enemies — a distinct advantage in an argument or in battle. In the 20th century, for instance, the Bible had been used by the White supremacists to justify racism in the Bible Belt of America in the southern states and by the Afrikaans in S. Africa to justify apartheid. These theological dogmas are constructed to separate people into the superior and inferior categories. Such dogmas are inherently divisive and oppressive and lead to confrontations and aggression.
The attempt to write an exclusive theology for the Tamils could be traced back to inherent Tamil arrogance, which again is rooted in the false sense of Tamil superiority. There is no secular, spiritual or rational basis for the Tamil to deserve a theology that would exclude the rest of mankind. To believe that the Tamils are chosen exclusively by God for special favours has no rational or evidentiary basis. Of course, beneath the veneer of being humble and gentle there lurks a hidden strain of arrogance which places the presumptuous Tamils, in their own minds, way above the rest. Prof. Hoole refers to the “………dangerous inherent assumption of the superiority of Tamils over the Sinhalese and a certain uneasiness about the Muslims who were also largely Tamil-speaking.”( p.xiii – Ibid) This sense of superiority also extends to the Batticoloa Tamils, the Indian “coolies” and, most of all, their own low-castes whom they treat as pariahs. A theology which seeks to establish that the Tamils are the favourites of God is the ultimate extension of this absurd sense of superiority. It is the divine equivalent of sharing power with the Sinhalese.
In the end, neither produced the theology they promised. Bishop Jebanesan, as far as I know, withdrew into a wise silence on this issue. Rev. Emmanuel, however, keeps on dragging God into his brand of politics. He uses the Christian collar in the corridors of Western power to gain respectability, acceptability and credibility to propagate his fabricated “theology” even after his thesis that God was on their side was disproved on the banks of Nandikadal.
The main thrust of his “Tamil theology” was to deify Tamil politics and to demonize the the Sinhalese as the Satanic force acting against the will of God. But if history is the expressed will of God then it is clear beyond any doubt that He has rejected Velupillai Prabhakaran – the most evil monster that came out of the womb of Jaffna. This message has not sunk into the Tamil psyche yet because pseudo-theologians are still engaged in keeping the fires of Prabhakaranism burning. For instance, Rev. Emmanuel’s Christian mission is devoted to elevate and embrace Prabhakaran as his “Sooriya Devan”. Jesus is kept at a comfortable distance to be used at his convenience.
There was no salvation for peninsular politics after the Tamils crowned Prabhakaran as their “Sooriya Devan”. With that Tamil politics took the final leap from absurdity to sheer lunacy. The Tamils who depend solely on their mythicised history to pursue arrogant politics, are severely handicapped by the absence of a credible and noble hero who could be hailed, with some honour and dignity, as the shining symbol of their achievements in their historical past. Their lack of a great icon from their ancestral times leads them to a false sense of superiority. Coming from a bankrupt past with no grand monuments or noble heroes to glorify their brief history, the Jaffna Tamils run down everyone else with venomous envy.
Of all the figures in their history they have embraced Prabhakaran as their sole hero. Only the diseased Tamil minds, sick with sado-masochism, would embrace a Tamil villain who has tortured, persecuted, exiled and killed more Tamils than anyone else as their hero. Only blood-thirsty vampires would rally round a flag which has no redeeming features to uplift the sensibilities of a humane and urbane being. The hideous images of a snarling tiger, putting his head out of a ring of thirty-three bullets — it looks more like a wreath placed for a corpse — with two bayoneted guns crisscrossing in the background are not the kind of worthy symbols accepted by any civilised community gifted with even an ounce of intelligence and decency.
All these monstrous obscenities have their origins in the bogus sense of Tamil superiority. The Germans and the Italians have virtually erased from their memories the evil fascist monsters – Hitler and Mussolini — who led them to defeat and humiliation. They have, of course, other historical giants, who have made unique contributors to the welfare of humanity, to revere. The Tamils of Jaffna, of course, must be excused because if they drop Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot, whom else do they have to look upon as their great hero?
Does this choice reflect a sense of superiority or mediocrity?
*To be continued