2 October, 2020

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The Rohingya In Our Midst – Learning From The Vulnerable                                                    

By Bishop Duleep de Chickera

Bishop Duleep de Chickera

The Rohingya in our midst brought out the worst in some of us. 

The aggression of a mob that sought to intimidate and deny these vulnerable humans of compassion and security, shockingly incited by some who carry religious responsibility in the community, will go down as a sad and shameful moment in our national conscience.   

The swift intervention, of senior government ministers, to clarify and affirm our stance, however welcome, came too late. By then the contempt with which these vulnerable humans had been treated had done its damage. Their desperate dependence on our compassion and good-will had resulted in the humiliation and trauma instead of an already humiliated and traumatised people.

After fleeing the sectarian violence in Myanmar and a perilous journey by sea, this group of thirty one Rohingya were brought ashore by our navy to be held at the Mirihana detention centre. It was only after the devastating rape of a Rohingya woman, allegedly by an officer whose job it is to protect people that the UNHCR was allowed to do what it is there to do; provide humanitarian care for refugees. Housed together for the first time they were surrounded by Sri Lankan neighbours with a traditional reputation for hospitality. The children of school going age were very rightly provided with opportunities for schooling; a gesture of some stability and the right and dream of every child and parent. This slow return to dignity was suddenly shattered through the violent reaction of a mob and the Rohingya were once again confined to a restricted space behind high walls in the south.   

The lesson here is that when governments treat those dependent on our generosity and protection, arbitrarily, and relegate them out of sight and out of hearing, they fail in their humanitarian obligations and disseminate negative signals that no amount of verbal intervention to the contrary can undo. This creates a climate in which opportunists can easily endorse this mentality to do through visible violence what the government has set in place through structural violence.

While both these types of behaviour humiliate the helpless and the harassed, one difference stands out. The State is unconditionally accountable for its behaviour. Under no circumstances can those who represent the people in pursuing national wholesomeness and integration inflict or permit any kind of violence; whether against its’ own or those who seek refuge on its soil.

The Rohingya in our midst highlights the severe exclusion of humans by humans.

Critical as these conditions are, the Rohingya are more than refugees or asylum seekers. They are a stateless people as well. In-spite of living on Myanmar soil they are not considered Myanmar nationals. They are consequently disqualified from constitutionally entrenched rights, freedom and basic facilities enjoyed by other Myanmar nationals; and denied recognition as a legitimate ethnic group in a land where numerous and diverse ethnic identities are recognised.

Despite some courageous exceptions, the majority Buddhists and minority Christians of Myanmar inaccurately portray and disown the Rohingya as ‘Bengali people’-illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. This is the wall of prejudice that Aung San Suu Kyi refuses to contest or dismantle.

This immediate crisis of nationality for the Rohingya is for the government of Myanmar to resolve. Given the current political intransigence as well as the systemic violence unleashed against them however, it will require sensitive diplomatic pressure, especially from friendly countries in the region, if the Rohingya are to eventually enjoy this universal human right.    

The wider crisis of nationality for the world’s ten million stateless is to be addressed by the peoples and nations of the world. The scope of engagement if this is to happen should range from awareness at the level of schools world-wide, to global support for the UN Convention on the reduction of statelessness. Whether it is for the handful of Rohingya in our midst or the stateless of the world; it is the sustained combination of compassion, justice and diplomacy from peoples’ movements and the nations of the world that will one day eliminate this horrific humiliation of excluded humans.   

The Rohingya in our midst points to a simmering ethno-religious tension.

The Muslim identity of these stateless-refugees, more or less explains the lack of public solidarity with their plight and humiliation on our soil. Perhaps unknown to them, it is their religious identity that has made their presence in a land of four world religions, controversial. 

For some time now there has been a growing prejudice against the Muslim community in the country. This is not a majority-minority tension as both, the majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Sinhala and Tamil Christians are known to nurse negative feelings about our Muslims. Images of the chaos in the Middle-East and the hasty stereotyping of acts of global terror, undoubtedly feed these attitudes. 

Together towards change 

Our collective response to this challenge cannot continue to be superficial. If it does we foolishly postpone a more serious conflagration. All mechanisms of reconciliation should without delay initiate conversations that address the causes of social prejudice against our Muslims. Sensitivity to the grievance and the rights of each other is of paramount importance and there can be no room for supremacy and intransigence. The unaddressed accumulation of these latter attitudes, seem to have spilled over into animosity.

Together towards life

If we are serious about living together with dignity and integrity, all of us; the religious as well as the secular will be obliged to engage in the task of introspection. To discern the kind of people we have become and then correct our own shortcomings before we become intolerable and offensive to others is a sign of humility and maturity. It is also a demonstration of good-will; that we recognise the public space is meant to be shared as equals with each other.

Together across borders

Another essential step towards building social trust is that our tendency to speak and act, out of self-interest only, has to stop. It is this communal preference that repeatedly sends distorted messages that the needs, benefits and privileges of our own ethno-religious community matter only and most. To tread the same soil and breathe the same air and remain neutral in or indifferent to the wider social realities that exclude and crush others is a recipe for social turmoil. A primary lesson that has evaded us at much cost for too long is that that we cannot expect dignity and freedom for our own if we do not cross borders in solidarity with other grieved and violated communities. 

The options we face

If we do not come to our senses and shift from our self-seeking ways, the chances are that whatever vision and energy there is for life together will diminish and impoverish us slowly. Signs that this could already be happening are worrying. Far from upholding the highest human ideals and cooperating for the common good, our secular pursuits and established religion in particular, have acquired a reputation for being unreasonable and obstructive of fresh expressions of advancement, healing and liberation. 

We cannot have it both ways. We could either stay with our self- centred and exclusive ways that polarise us and undermine social integration and stability or we could break from this bondage to stand with each other in our common pursuit of a more safe, just and integrated world for all. To imagine that the latter is a betrayal of our identity; national or ethno-religious, is a myth. To rise above division and endorse the human race as the highest race as taught by the Buddha and generate just compassion for our neighbour amongst whom the vulnerable stranger takes precedence, as Jesus taught, is to the contrary a manifestation of our highest collective human values.

It is those who seek to consolidate their power bases, political, religious or ethnic, by controlling our emotions and freedom who suggest otherwise. 

With Peace and Blessings to all

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Latest comments

  • 3
    10

    This is like a sunday serrmon. All crap and lies.

    • 4
      1

      Jimmy the idiot,
      Do you lie awake at night waiting for a new post on CT, so that you can put in your usual brainless opinion first?

      • 2
        1

        Raaman the stupid: So-called rohingyas were coming to Sinhale since 2008 and some have been settled by Rishad Bathiuddin and the clique, but it became an issue only in 2017. Why, the fuss only now ?

        • 0
          3

          Jimshitty,
          If you can go to Canada to clean toilets, why not rohingya come here?

          • 2
            0

            Yusuf the Marakkaya: IT is the Allah’s wish that Muslims do not come to the buddhist land sinhale.

            • 2
              2

              Jimshitty:
              Whose wish is it that you should be permitted into Canada, even to clean toilets?

          • 1
            0

            Mr.Yusuf,lot of tamils are doing white collar jobs in Canada.May be at the start they would have done some odd jobs to carryout their day to day life.In the case of Rohiyana muslims,the rich muslim countries must help them,it is not necessary for them to come to Srilanka.Further,the main reason for this problem is the population explosion of the muslims,tell your muslims not to give birth to children like rabbits.Ask them to adopt the policy of one wife and two children.

            • 0
              1

              Mr fish,
              Is Canada a Tamil country? Is Germany a Tamil Hindu country?Then why do you want only Muslim countries to help Rohingya?
              Where is your data about pop. explosion? Prove it .Don’t believe rumours.

              • 0
                0

                Because we cannot help everyone at the same time. Canada has taken and is still taking and settling Syrian refugees in large numbers. Before this Canada did the same with Afghanistan refugees.

                Arab countries have the land mass as well as the financial capacity to help, why are they not taking the refugees in.

      • 1
        0

        Raman:
        Your surmise is wrong. This biped of indeterminate ancestry doesn’t lie awake, he dreams (in technicolour) of the next idiocy he can inflict on readers of CT.
        The problem is not Jimmy the idiot. It is CT letting publishing the unbelievable and vicious rubbish he comes up with!

        • 1
          0

          Emil,
          Give as good as you get. That’s the best policy for dealing with guys (? ) like Jimmy. We need entertainment after all.

  • 2
    0

    It is really a sad and shameful moment in our national conscience.

    Why we failed to response to this humanitarian crisis is unfortunate..

  • 5
    2

    Jim Shitty,

    Hope you will face the same fate as Rohingya people! The world is watching and keep your dumb comments to your gutter home folks.

    • 5
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      A courageous and open statement by Bishop Chickera. The Anglicans might have been elitist in the past, but things seem to be changing.I wish the Catholic so-called Cardinal would be as candid.
      This pittu- in- the-mouth syndrome affects many people in high places, including the Prime Minister, (who prefers to be seen as a paragon of Sinhala-Buddhist piety), when confronted with unruly mobs of Buddhist monks. Even senior police officers treat monks quite differently from, say, three-wheeler drivers, even though many three-wheeler drivers are more educated and less unruly than some prominent monks.
      It is time that civil laws are applied equally to all citizens, no matter what they may be wearing. Respect cannot be demanded. It must be earned. If the “cheevaraya” is what stops the Police from acting, by all means strip these thugs of their cheevarayas before giving them a good working over.

      • 3
        0

        Well said old codger. Hats off to Bishop Chickera. It must be too political (or is it ‘politically incorrect’ in SL?) for the Maha Sanga & the catholic church to open their mouths.

        • 0
          0

          Raj:
          Truer words have not been spoken with regard to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church which was only too willing to support the previous regime in all its violence and corruption.
          As for the Buddhist hierarchy …………………………….. simply set its conduct up against the principles of that faith.

      • 0
        0

        old codger, yes you are right, The Catholics are fed-up of the ‘Mahanayake Patronising’ Cardinal Malcom Ranjith for his reticence; and this is not the first instance either. Instead Cardinal prefers to feign amnesia when a report came out about Buddhist extremists attacking and destroying places of worship in the recent past. Instead he preferred to save himself and earn the blessings of the Mahanayakes by denying any such things have happened to catholic places of worship (like Peter denying Christ). He in fact went on to condone the actions of these thugs by implying if such things did happen, then it happened to the new born ‘christian’ churches that had no right to be preaching their doctrine here. Good on you Bishop Chickera for speaking against the cancer that has taken root in this country.

  • 2
    1

    Always expect a very valuable gem from from this Bishop.
    For all categories of people – teachers, leraners, …………. (being a retired teacher I always look at anything from the point of learning/teaching).

    Pl let me add:
    I’ve been sorry for Rohyngeans for years.
    No disrespect intended – had SriLanka been attached to any other country by land Tamils would have fled Ceylon in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and there wouldn’t have been a war

  • 5
    0

    An educated, humanitarian,and learned, mouthful from the Bishop. But there is a problem. How many of our people,or for that matter the people of the world, are educated enough to grasp the very intricate lines that the GOOD BISHOP is advocating us to accept. This is a mind boggling and intricate bit of reasoning far too complicated for the ordinary man to reason out for himself and then put into practice.

    Taking into consideration today’s society and the way we reason out on different issues and take up positions and then act on them, it will need a lot of educational effort to change to what has been advocated here, which is going to be an elephantine task. Till then WHAT?

    • 0
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      “How many of our people,or for that matter the people of the world, are educated enough to grasp the very intricate lines “

      Aren’t we supposed to be 95% literate in SL?
      However,the likes of Gnanasara, Elle Gunawansa , Akmeemana Daya & Co. are of doubtful literacy.

      • 4
        0

        NOT talking about “sham literate figures”I am referring to “educated “.
        There is a world of a difference, that is why although Sri Lanka is “purported” to be 80% literate we are a woefully uneducated Country
        struggling at the dregs like the proverbial frog in the well.
        As a people we can’t understand simple teachings, leave aside what the Good Bishop is articulating.

  • 1
    0

    Muslims are a substantial part of the population of Myanmar – 4% according to government but 20% estimated independently. The Muslims are from various ethnic groups. The Burmese Junta know that all the ethnic groups except Rohingyas have a bit of clout. Rohingyas are the poorest. The Junta needed a distraction while they plundered the country’s wealth and choose Rohingyas.
    The Rohingyas are being persecuted as never before. Their plight is pathetic but the world is turning a blind eye to what is today the genocide of a people. The West and China are eyeing the minerals. The yoga/meditation man Modi has said that Rohingyas are terrorist but the real reason is the rise of Hindu bigotry.
    The Rohingyas did not arrive here. They were caught in the high seas and brought to Colombo by the Lankan Navy. They are being looked after by UN. The abuse they got the other day is shameful. Lanka’s reputation suffered
    Bishop Duleep de Chickera’s intervention is as a fellow human.
    Will Mufthi Rizwe holding the post of chairman of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema (ACJU) intervene on behalf of fellow Islamist Rohingyas?’No no no never. The bigot is busy saving MMDA as is. The man is interested in child brides!

    • 1
      0

      Pillai: I can believe why foxes are crying loud for Chicken. Otherwise, it is you people bomb muslims countries to oblivion. Why, don’t you talk it is UK, USA and Saudi Arabia who is halping these Bangladeshi bengali speaking immigrents As Tamil speaking south indian migrants made problems in Sri lanka. MODI knows mode is holding 20 million of Bangladeshi migrents in India. MODI also knows that Pakisthani terrorist leaders are operating inthe middle of the those so-called Rohingyas. for you Tamils it is just like LTTE. for muslims, it is shia (bengali rohingyas) vs Sunnis.

  • 3
    7

    Rev Duleep,

    I’ve known you since our school days and I am shocked to read the above post from you. Please don’t talk nonsense and bring disrepute to our Alma Mater.

    No matter how many times you recite, Rohingya fellas are invaders from Bengal who happen to plunder the Burmese resources, kill or forcibly convert Burmese Buddhists.

    Good for the Burmese to correct this technical error early itself. Unlike our politicians and our bleeding heart Colombo Based Sinhalese Gay boys.

    Being Thomians, you and I know a thing or two about Gay Boys and if we had met these fellas while we were in College we would have wasted no time in doing what we need to do to them. Ain’t that right Duleep?

    Be that as it may, a Muslim never behaves where ever he/she places his foot. Burmese are doing the right thing which of course our Gay Sinhalese buggers are unable to. If not for Aung soon sai koo, Burma would soon be a dessert like our own Wilpattu and be soon inhabited by Camel riding Cavemen.

    • 2
      2

      Retd. Lt.Reginald Shamal Perera:
      For starters, since, on retirement, you would have been elevated one rank, could you please tell us what rank you held while still in service.
      Also, would you please enlighten us as to who is “Aung soon sai koo” or would you rather NOT confirm your illiteracy/idiocy by making such an attempt?
      Unfortunately, there seems to be no law against publication of blatant and vicious idiocies!

      • 1
        3

        Mr van der Pooten,

        I was a Lt. and was honorably discharged from the service in the late 80’s. That was the woman who is leading Burma nowadays. A very strong lady unlike our Gay cabinet.

        • 0
          1

          Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamel Perera:
          Did you say HONOURABLY? Also, is the lady considered the de facto leader of Burma/Myanmar aware of the fact that you have renamed her?
          P.S.
          I notice that you have even changed MY last name!

          • 1
            3

            Emil,

            HONOURABLY is spelt as HONORABLY in American English. And the Spell Catcher wouldn’t catch it. I need to switch it off because I hate American way of spelling and the Spell Catcher automatically turns the words into this nonsense.

        • 3
          1

          Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shameless women sniffing Perera

          “I was a Lt. and was honorably discharged from the service in the late 80’s. “

          Were you one of the renegade deserters who later joined the Mahinda’s hitman team?

          • 0
            0

            In this particular case I think Rtd. stands for RETARDED.

    • 5
      1

      (recently promoted) Maj.Gen. Shamal,
      ” Burma would soon be a dessert like our own Wilpattu and be soon inhabited by Camel riding Cavemen.”
      Surely a Thomian knows the difference between “dessert” and “desert”???
      A Thomian would know that cavemen didn’t ride Camels. They ate them.

      • 1
        5

        romani,

        The beautiful English language does have it’s flaws. These two words are so identical to each other that even the Spell Catcher wouldn’t detect the flaw.

        Thanks for the enlightenment about what cavemen do with their Camels. I was never a caveman so I wouldn’t know.

        • 2
          1

          Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamel Perera:
          Did you say HONOURABLY? Also, is the lady considered the de facto leader of Burma/Myanmar aware of the fact that you have renamed her?
          P.S.
          I notice that you have even changed MY last name!

    • 1
      1

      Aung San Suu Ki, knows all about those do gooder western countries. She is doing what has to be done without talking and without missing a beat. It seems that what a man gotta do – a woman gotta do. Our politicians can learn a lot from this great leader.

    • 3
      2

      Rtd Lt, Your whole message stinks and that is probably because you say you are from the school by the sea and therefore I shall not even condescend to comment on it. I however need to correct you on a blatant lie. The Bishop NEVER spent his school days with the likes of you. His school days was spent at a far greater Institution than where YOU spent your school days amongst GAYS.
      The Church coerced him into your school to help the Warden and its Tutorial staff to change its GAY habits where the likes of you were creating mayhem. Don”t try to teach him how he should go about doing his pastoral duties. You stick to your GAY RETIREMENT.

      • 3
        5

        A Royalist eh? Did you see the video of your thugs swearing something just before the Royal-Thomian Regatta?

        Apparently, your Maria Kade thugs need to shout in filth to boost their morale just before a sporting event.

        We come from a school that produced eight Sri Lankan Prime Ministers and Presidents where as you come from a school that produced one Gay boy who was always in the opposition. Except for JRJ of course, who is a rare exception.

        • 2
          1

          I though you said that you spent your school days with the GOOD BISHOP ? Have you been enlightened ?

          NOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN EXPOSED for being a BLOODY LIAR having being told that he never went to your school by the sea, you are drawing a red herring across the entire Topic.
          The good Bishop has shown compassion to some of the worlds poorest destitutes, in his article and you went and SHAT on it with your BS comments about GAYS and your school day habits.

          Talking about your coming from a school that produced 8 Prime Ministers, that is a probably why our Country is in this state today, A terrible Legacy to be proud of.

          • 2
            3

            Well, if those 8 Prime Ministers weren’t good enough to lead our Country, who should have? You wouldn’t even be good enough to open the Parliament door for them. You seem like one big pessimist who think our country is so horrible.

            If our country is that bad, I have some good advise for you. Get the F out of our country and make sure to lock the door on your way out. Rest assured no one is going to miss you. Your hatred towards our beloved country tells me that you are either a disgruntled Tamil or a conniving Muslim thief. In either case, our country will be better off without you.

            And btw, Duleep did attent pre-school at STC just like the only SL leader your school produced. JRJ also attended STC during his pre-school days.

            • 2
              3

              Rt Lt ,
              Forget what the likes of you and your 8 PM’S have made the Country AS IT IS TODAY that is another story, but don’t drag the GOOD BISHOP into your surmises. HE NEVER attended ANY school by the sea or any of it’s saplings across the Land, GET that into your SENILE DECAYING HEAD. He achieved his compassion and his intellectual grounding and knowledge at the BETTER school, which you so rightly acknowledged without my even having to mention it’s hallowed name.

              THIS ARTICLE on these HAPLESS Rohingyas by the GOOD BISHOP deserves FAR MORE intellect than your GAY cells will permit YOU TO UNDERSTAND.

              • 1
                1

                If you like the Rohingya Muslims so much, why don’t you go and feed them rather than wasting your time here at ColomboTelepgraph.

  • 1
    1

    A questions has been raised above why other religious leaders are silent. Did it not become apparent during the height of the Presidential campaign in 2014/15 that certain religious leaders (e.g, Cardinal) are obligated to MR? All sectors of importance are obligated to MR and/or under his thumb/control (money speaks!). This man has single handedly ruined our beloved Country.

  • 2
    0

    NOT talking about “sham literate figures”I am referring to “educated “.
    There is a world of a difference, that is why although Sri Lanka is “purported” to be 80% literate we are a woefully uneducated Country
    struggling at the dregs like the proverbial frog in the well.
    As a people we can’t understand simple teachings, leave aside what the Good Bishop is articulating.

  • 1
    0

    What you say is very true….
    But Sri Lanka is a very small Buddhist Country and the way of the thinking of our people have evolved to a different stage over the last 200 years due to the actions of those who landed in Sri Lanka either as refugees or invaders…

    the historians never referred to any good of Sri Lankan Buddhists and Buddhist Priests…but very often branded them as babarians with a tribal mentality. This attitude is well displayed by the Govt in power…
    The Buddhists who participated in the 1818 rebellion against Britush were branded as traitors..executed them. How can the invaders brand natives as Traitors who defend their own land .. ? This is exactly like the Sinhala idiom says ” ගිරවාගේ බෙනයට රිළවා රිංගුවා වාගේ” …

    Today the ” English speaking / classy..” Society with British Mentality irrespective of their religious beliefs collectively ..without an iota of respect casts filthy remarks ..make derogatory statements ..at Buddhists and Buddhist priests who speak and act in defense of Sinhala Buddhists & Buddhism of this Country …one should not forget that it is Buddhism and the Buddhist Priests that have kept this country intact for 2000 year and made known to the world …as such their anxieties have to be respect …

    Our saviour Lord Jesus said ..” remove the Log in your own eye before ‘SPEAKING’ of the spec in your brother’s eye”…. Before Sri Lanka came to understand Christianity ..they knew what Compassion means..

    Since 1200 – 1800 AD ..Arabs..Tamil Speaking Muslims from South India…Portugese…Dutch…British landed in Sri Lanka ultimately the British establishing their Kingdom rule by dubious ..deceptive methods..

    During the 800 years ..1200AD to date….just observe what the generosity / magnanimity of Sri Lankan Buddhist Priests / people have brought upon this beautiful Country. The British influence is still prevailing….Muslims were refugees then ..now demanding a separate State….the West Advocates a division of the Country by twisting the arm of the Government…

    In the midst of all this Bishop speak how compassionate the Sri Lankan Buddhists should be towards Rohingiya Refugees….history has proven how Muslims have abused the compassion of the Countries they landed on..

    The FEAR of Sri Lankan Buddhists is not the Rohingiya Refugees …but it is their Toxic Faith that create fanaticism…

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