31 October, 2020

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Theology For Reconciliation Process

By Asanga Abeygoonasekera –

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Most Venerable Mahasanga, Christian, Hindu and Islamic religious dignitaries, Excellencies from various diplomatic missions, our distinguished speakers for today, ladies and gentleman.

On behalf of Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs and the board Directors of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies, I would like to welcome with great honour the Maha Sanga, the Christian, Hindu, Islamic religious dignitaries and all distinguished guests for this gathering.

It is with great pleasure I welcome our Keynote speaker Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, I welcome our eminent panelists for today Ven.Prof. Bellanwilla Wimalarathna thero, Ven.Galkande Dhammananda thero, Rev.Fr.Bendict Joseph,Ven.Ramachandra Kurukkal Babu Sharma, Mr.N.M.Ameen, Dr.Pradeep Jeganathan, Prof.Rohan Gunarathna and Mr.Prasantha lal de Alwis. Our Institute is honored by the presence of such a renowned panel. I thank you for your time and contribution. Many religious members requested to speak at our conference but due to time constraints we had to limit the number of speakers. We welcome all participants for the discussion towards the end of the conference.

This is the 8th conference we are conducting on reconciliation at our Institute. We held the inaugural conference with Secretary of Defense as the keynote speaker in 2011 November. The other conferences focused a number of themes such as the role of Business, women, ICT, youth, education and Art and culture. Our aim is to identify champions of reconciliation in our society and recognize their ideas and thoughts on the subject and thus consequently feed into a dialogue among the public and policy making. Contributions in these conferences are encapsulated in a comprehensive report. We also produce position papers to our Minister on the recommendations made during the discussions. For example from the last conference we had recommendations from a participant requesting a National Reconciliation Day to be declared by the government.

These activities we conduct are mandated under the Act in 2006 which clearly specifies the need to work on post conflict reconciliation and peace building. We are not an implementation body but a place for discussion, debate and research. Our recommendations are directed to the relevant authorities for implementation.

A few months ago I was in South Africa and I observed the use of theology in their reconciliation process. During the TRC process they have used theology as a key element to heal the hearts and minds of the victims and perpetrators, there was lot of praying during the sessions according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his book No Future without Forgiveness. I am not suggesting that we should necessarily adopt the same here but we could look at certain applicable best practices.

Forgiveness is common to all religions. In Budhism, story of “Angulimala” a ruthless killer was forgiven, in Christianity Jesus Christ when he was crucified he did forgive at his last hour. The other religions also have this essence of forgiveness. Our earth is soaked with the blood of so many innocent people. Two world wars, holocaust, Vietnam, genocide in Cambodia and Ruwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland ,Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Afganistan, Pakistan  and so many more conflicts around the world. Three days ago a religious mosque was attacked in Iraq where 20 people died, since April about 2500 Iraqis was killed. With all these we still believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Like I have said at the World Economic Forum at a panel discussion “the pain of one nation should be pain of another we cant ignore another nation since we are all connected. Together we must find solution”.

Religion has an amazing power to unite a divided community and reconcile. Religious harmony was present at the time of great kings of our country. Today as our nation is at an important juncture in postwar period, we could use religion to heal our hearts and minds. When I look back to my childhood I have seen enough of horrors through losing my father and also 117 members of my father’s political party SLMP.=

We all are direct or indirect victims of this horrific period. There were many assassinations of great religious leaders, one such leader was the most venerable Pohoddaramulle Premaloka Thero the chief adviser of the SLMP party who was gunned down soon after Vijaya Kumaratunga‘s assassination. Perpetrators walked in to his temple and shot him twice in the mouth, instantly killing him. He believed in liberal political values such as devolution of power.

This week marks the 30th anniversary of one of the worst manifestations of inter ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, known better as Black July. Today we have a great opportunity crafted by our armed forces with the leadership of his Excellency the President who managed to defeat terrorism. It’s time for us to create a multi-ethnic society with respect and dignity to all ethnic groups. To create a society of meritocracy based on talents and not the ethnic background. When I met Deputy PM of Singapore Tharman Sanmugarathnam, I was fascinated by his speech on his contribution to his country. After speaking to him I found that he was a Sri Lankan who has elevated to this position. Change and transition is hard but it’s vital for the future. I said hard because change on believes and values are the hardest. Humans have to be adaptive or you will be left out of the race. We lost many lives during the last three-decade and now it’s time to learn lessons from past mistakes and reconcile.

Today we are webcasting live in order to reach out to a wider community including the Sri Lankan Diaspora. Questions could be posted on Twitter or Facebook or sent directly to our email, so that our panelists could respond to them. I am pleased that Rev. Father S.J. Emmanuel from the Global Tamil Forum has sent his wishes for this conference and we want the Diaspora to be involved in this discussion.

The process towards reconciliation is a long one. The injustice that has been done for decades will not be made right after one day. The parties to the conflict should indicate a willingness to break the old patterns of conflict. I am certain todays conference will add great value to our national reconciliation process.

I end with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “World peace trough nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.

Thank you.

*National Conference on the Role of Religion in ReconciliationSpeech by Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Executive Director LKIIRSS 23rd July 2013

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    This is an interesting speech from the younger generation, in an environment of conflict provocation by extremist groups hindering reconciliation.

    The principles this young gentleman mentions are appreciable. His thinking has been in circulation for decades but unheard, not cared for, overlooked. What he says has been discussed and disseminated by the LLRC, many foreign and local dignitaries, other civil society functionaries, religious dignitaries and as he says in conferences- eight in number from his institution, comprehensive reports, recommendations made etc. I have seen older generation stating rhetoric for reconciliation in similar tones as this young gentleman. I have been one such.

    Let us be told what recommendations made by his Institution had been implemented by authorities, who are also in search of reconciliation mechanisms. It will motivate us to look forward for larger contributions from him and his institution.

    I wish him success in this regard, because I love to see reconciliation taking place in Sri Lanka.

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    Sadly, you are not from the ruling family, so your opinions don’t count…

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    Christians speak a lot on ‘forgiveness’ and ‘reconciliation’ while having sponsored several sectarian conflicts. ‘Theology’ is a convenient double speak for geo-political objectives. The revolt in southern Sudan was church backed to ensure the partition of what was then a Muslim majority Sudan. The Karen, Kachin, Chin and Shan revolts in Myanmar also had significant church sponsorship albeit indirect except in the instance of the Karen where it was overt. The idea was to split a Buddhist majority state. The East Timor secessionist movement was another example intended to undermine largely Muslim Indonesia. There are so many examples. The theologians would justify the role of the church using arguments such as ‘social justice’, ‘liberation’, ‘human rights’ etc. When the conflict ends, new verbiage is introduced using terms such as ‘reconciliation’. The best way that the church could sponsor reconciliation is to stay out of politics. This would mean that the Bishop of Mannar stops goading a now dead LTTE secessionist movement. It would likewise mean that Father S.J. Emmanuel no longer prods and heads the Global Tamil Forum. It would mean that the church sponsorship of the so-called North East Secretariat on Human Rights – an LTTE front – ends. Pararajasingham Joseph, Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru and Father Karunaratnam were founders of this fig leaf of LTTE propaganda while the LTTE was holding tens of thousands of Tamil Hindu civilians as human shields. The church will also have to come clean in its complicity as the LTTE evicted Muslims from Mannar making that district Sri Lanka’s first ever Roman Catholic majority district! So lets end all this double speak – and practice actual sincerity – which means a depoliticization of religion – Christianity included. Tamil Hindus have suffered a lot on account of the church sponsorship of Sri Lankan secessionism. This is not to support Mahinda Rajapakse. On the contrary. But we need a more principled stance rather than this verbiage on theology!

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      Raman, Christian Theology proper is “Love God with all that you are, and love your neighbour as yourself”. All else are commentaries and individual modifications.

      How can this “Theology” alone be kept out of any human situation?

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    It is encouraging that LKIIRSS is playing this role for reconcilliation which would be a theme close to the heart of the late Lakshman Kadirgamar.

    Happy to see a young intellectual able to express his sincere thoughts and play a proactive role in such efforts. God give more strength to LKIIRS to host such interfaith dialogue events in the future.

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    Asanga Abeygunasekara is young and Naive. If not influenced by politically motivated relatives. Last name implies some political motivation behind this.

    In brief, he may not know all about Abrahamic religions. Those two were never for peace or reconciliation. Those always created the most problems for the world. Those are for themselves and for world domination. When their objective is world domination and not “LIVE AND LET LIVE”, how do those religions contribute to peace or reconciliation.

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    Dear Asanga Abeygoonasekera,

    1. “Most Venerable Mahasanga, Christian, Hindu and Islamic religious dignitaries, Excellencies from various diplomatic missions, our distinguished speakers for today, ladies and gentleman.”

    2. “A few months ago I was in South Africa and I observed the use of theology in their reconciliation process.”

    3. “This week marks the 30th anniversary of one of the worst manifestations of inter ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, known better as Black July.”

    4. “Today we are webcasting live in order to reach out to a wider community including the Sri Lankan Diaspora. Questions could be posted on Twitter or Facebook or sent directly to our email, so that our panelists could respond to them”

    We want to thank you for your attempt to drill reason and logic to the followers of the different religious dogmas, that is tearing the country apart, and prevents the formation of an Egalitarian Society.

    The basic question that is still being asked is What is Religion?

    Here are some Opinions and a Different perspective to think.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHHOiF-dFEg

    Just Think- Sam Harris part 1 of 2

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG72wpp_mLM

    Just Think- Sam Harris part 2 of 2

    Uploaded on Jul 1, 2010
    http://www.samharris.org

    From the Free Press:

    Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the From the Free Press:

    Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to non-believing scientists—agree on one point: Science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.

    In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of “morality”; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.

    Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.

    Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

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      AMARAsiri:

      Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the From the Free Press:

      You continue to write like an idiot. Buddhism is not a faith. buddhism says investigate fully before accepting. It is christianity and Islam that are faiths those religions cannot be investigated and you just have to investigate. Those religions can not solve the problems of people. that is christianity is Disappearing in some parts of the world while It is death if Islam is given up.

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    LKIIRSS will compile all speeches and resolutions in to a nicely bound volume and ceremonially hand over a copy to H.E. the President who will be photographed reading it in his easy chair. And that will be that.

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    A discussion on different Religions is the best way to help solve our Ethnic Crisis. We must concentrate on forming a common spiritual Identity. Common Ethics in different Religions,Professional bodies and other bodies should be discussed. After discussion we should have an agreed set of Ethics. Our constitution and Common law has being influenced by Jueodo Christian ethics or Western standard of Ethics. The time has come for us to introduce a unanimous code of Ethics approved by all Ethnic and Religions and other divisions. Priorities should be the Truth and not the Majority or Minority or the World community. I hope that the Colombo Telegraph will be a Forum for discussion on Ethics. We must consider Pansil in a background of love,forgiveness and tolerance. The Christians Sermon of the mount is a beacon of light to a timely expansion of Ethics to a divided World. The Muslim commitment to good Ethics and Charity is what we can accept. The Hindu concept of being closer to the Environment is also important.

    The little voice inside us the collective unconsience should be given a hearing. Let us discuss, Pray and Meditate and we will surely find an Answer to our problems. The sacrifice by all of us is the need of the Day.

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