26 November, 2020

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This Is Not The Time For Religions To Be Self-Centric

By Rev. S.J. Emmanuel –

Rev. Dr S.J. Emmanuel

In Memory Of Late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe 

Thirty years ago on the 23rd of October 1983, Sri Lanka lost one of the ablest Sinhala Christian Leader – Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe,- a loss not only for his church but also for the whole country. I am informed that after  the massacre of 1983 Black July, the bishop was very heart-broken at the tragedy that overtook the people of this country and the unwillingness of the rulers to be ashamed and guilty on behalf of the majority people and their rulers. Now after a prolonged war and destruction, when some attempts are being made for reconciliation among the various ethnic and religious communities of the island, it is right and fitting that we recall to mind the exemplary leadership given by the late Bishop to his people. Though he was bishop only of a diocese and that too only for about two decades, he reached out to all ethnic communities and religions and their leaders with a sincere love for a peaceful country.

1.     Government’s Efforts counterproductive  for Reconciliation?

I feel sorry for the very poor efforts of the present government especially with regard to reconciliation. After coming into power by whipping up extremist feelings of the ethnic and religious communities and prosecuting a war, not so much against the LTTE, but against a whole civilian population, it is challenged to rehabilitate and reconcile what is left behind. Its motivation and methods used in war as well as its triumphalist celebrations of conquest thereafter exhibited beyond doubt its conquest/domineering attitude which made it most unsuitable to respond to the challenges especially of reconciliation. Rehabilitation with foreign funds is done more in erecting victory memorials and building of further military camps with houses for the families of army personel,  and roads for army movements and less for the detained and displaced victims. With regard to reconciliation it was made more and more difficult by the post-war victory attitude to militarise the Tamil regions and a revengeful army administration of Tamil-life. Bulldozing even the war memorials of the ‘conquered-Tamils’ building army camps over them  and preventing parents from mourning for their own children is barbaric and counterproductive to reconciliation. This is what Bishop Lakshman, who daringly apologized to the Tamils for the crimes committed by his people, called it “a shame of the majority”.

Late Bishop of Kurunegala, Revd. Lakshman Wickremesinghe

I had the occasion to react adversely to some efforts of two Christian politicians in Geneva. Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe ( a nephew of Bishop Lakshman) with all his good will presented a voluminous book titled “Road to Reconciliation” and Ministers Mahinda Samarasinghe and …..others presented tons of voluminous printed materials in the side-events in Geneva in defence of the efforts of the Government towards rehabilitation and reconciliation. Each of us received almost 6 kilos of printed material brought from Colombo to Geneva. They gave us lot of information about the building of infra-structures and development of communication through good roads, but very little to bring hearts and minds of people closer to unity.I had the occasion to react critically to the efforts of good Christians as ministers, that reconciliation among ethnic and religious groups has to do more with opening of hearts and minds of people, with setting values like truth, justice, neighborly love, compassion etc. than with constructions and developments. This is unfortunately the consequence of government alone taking ther And this responsibility lies with all the four religions and their leaders

2.     Can a racist-state effect reconciliation?

Mr. Issath Hussein, in articles appearing in the Island  has rightly identified the root cause of our problems as state-racism and how it works by calling the fringe-extremists to help them in their dictatorial family rule. It is mostly the politicians and the state who whip up racist feelings among the masses to come to power and then execute their evil intentions with the help of extreme-racists.  How can we expect such a State, and in our times a state identified as a family-dictatorship, to bring about reconciliation among the peoples? They are only making some show-case efforts much due to pressure from outside, and more from self-centered political perspective (chinthanayas). When the state itself stands accused of all possible human rights violations both in the north and in the south, when they assume dictatorial powers over law and order in the society, how can they be architects of reconciliation? Left to themselves the most they are doing is to build roads and airports or hire some intellectuals and careerists as ministers, to cover up the skeletons in state’s cupboard vis a vis the international community.

3.     Only religions and their leaders  can talk “truth to power’

It is in this helpless situation, the peace-loving people expect the active leadership of non-political leaders to question the efforts of the state for reconciliation. They rightly expect their non-political leaders to proclaim courageously truth and justice which are the ingredients of genuine peace and reconciliation. They will expect the politicians to make genuine efforts towards  an acceptable and durable political solution. This is what what Mr. Tilak Jaythileka referred to as Bishop Lakshman’s principled opposition to opportunistic politics and his immense capacity to ‘talk truth to power’. Timidity and passivity of non-political, especially of religious leaders are the worst enemies of Sri Lanka. The bishop knew and practiced how “to embody the rare and splendid fusion between thought and action, religion and politics, because he had realized, not without struggle, that spiritual emancipation must, in the last analysis, rely almost exclusively on the liberation of man as a political animal.

4.     Religions in the thinking of Bishop Lakshman

In the thinking of Bishop Lakshman, peaceful coexistence of a multi ethnic multi religious people, does not with pious exhortations to be good and loving to one another, nor merely to pray for peace as is done by many, but engaging with the agents and powers that be to make a change. His concern for the Sinhala Buddhist peasantry, the welfare of Tamil estate labourers and for the rights of the Ceylon Tamils did not stop with words of exhortation but moved all over the island meeting other leaders including politicians, to talk of the problems. With respect to the grievances of the Tamils he had already daringly encouraged devolution of power from the center to the peripheries. No one can say that he was overstepping his religious boundaries. Anything that concerns the welfare of man is also a concern of the religions and its leaders.

Religions must stand up not simply for religious truths regarding sin and evil as taught by their religions to those who come to them or invite them, but proclaim eloquently truths concerning man, his dignity, rights and peaceful co-existence to the vital centres of society and to their leaders. Peaceful coexistence of all the peoples of Sri Lanka is possible only when other non-political leaders – religious, civil and social – respond to their role to “talk truth to power”.

The late bishop was a model to many of our present religious leaders who tend to hide behind their titles, robes and temple walls, distancing themselves from the cries of victims of violence and war, merely issuing condemnations from their elevated seats, but never opening their mouth against lies and injustices nor lifting their finger to help the victims.

5.     Role of all religions in Sri Lanka

I once had a dialogue with the Bishop, I think at Katuwapitiya at the ancestral home of Father Tissa Balasuriya about divine revelations and religions. It was clear to us that religions are all man-made on the basis of divine or super-human (Albert Einstein) revelations to man. And these religions must serve man and his peaceful living together. In such an understanding I ask,  Have the four religions in Sri Lanka lived up to this calling and did their duty by the nation?

6.     Bishop as active member of many liberative organizations.

Bishop Lakshman was a Bishop for his diocese, a Christian leader for the churches, an instrument of inter-ethnic and inter religious dialogue to bring people of all origins closer to one another. True he lived in his church nourishing himself with the Word of God and sacraments, but worked both in and outside the church, with a vision to serve man – the center of service of all religions. Hence he devoted much of his time in liberative service for all – be they the poor Sinhala Buddhist peasants of the south or the Tamils laboring under sub-human conditions on the hills or the Ceylon Tamils discriminated and denied  their human rights. Organisations such as The Vimukthi Dharma Kendra, the Kurunegala group of the Amnesty International, Christian Workers Fellowship (CWF), Civil Rights Movement, were some he worked with. He helped in founding the Vimukthi Dharma Kendra (The Liberation Doctrine Centre), an organization for dialogue among the four major religions of Sri Lanka because he was convinced that religions join hands in liberating victims of injustices. Some of the Christian collaborators of the Bishop in his ministry were Sevaka Yohan Devananda, Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, Fr. Paul Caspersz and Fr. Aloysius Peiris, who were founders respectively of the Centre for Society and Religion, Satyodaya and Tulana. It is with their inspiration I founded in 1986 in Jaffna the Centre for Better Society and invited Sinhala leaders from the south to talk to the Jaffna public.

I am sure there are many young religious and social leaders today  who can join hands and effectively face the present day challenges to the country and save the country from its descent towards a national suicide..

7.     Bishop’s efforts on behalf of Tamil Rights

As a Tamil catholic priest I had known Bishop during my years at the National Seminary in Ampitiya. In the name of the Tamils, I gratefully salute this great Sinhalese Christian leader, who stood out almost alone and courageously at that time, to apologize on behalf of the majority community to the victimized Tamils and gave a historic pastoral exhortation at that time to his Diocese. The ecumenical, the inter-religious and the socio-political relationships he fostered with many outside his church was exemplary.

Collaboration among religious leaders need to be initiated especially by Christian leaders because of their membership from both sides of the divide and have the needed personal and strategic resources. I will exhort my Christian brothers and sisters to come out of their minority-complex or European-mentality, think and act together with others for the common good.

A humble appeal in memory of the Bishop

As a man of religion, who has dedicated most of my service to educating Sinhalese and Tamil priests (some of them bishops today), and in spite of being misunderstood to the extent of hate-labels especially  from the government, I will plead in the name of Truth and Justice and in memory of good Bishop Lakshman, with the present religious leaders from all religions, not to miss the present historic chance once again in building a unity out of diversity. If a unity of peaceful co-existence has to be realized on the island, even if Tamils or Muslims are pushed to an unwanted separation (divorce) even then, to stay as good and peaceful neighbors within the island, the unique role of religions and religious leaders are indispensable. This is not the time for religions to be self-centric and enclosed within the walls of their  own worship and pedestals for preaching, but to take the role of religion vis a vis the decision-makers in serving the multiethnic multi-religious communities of the island to live peacefully on the basis of truth and justice.

Related posts;

My Memories Of The Rt. Revd. Lakshman Wickremesinghe (1927 – 1983) By Tissa Jayatilaka

The Letter The ‘London Times’ Didn’t Publish

A Cry From The Heart By Revd. Lakshman Wickremesinghe

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Dear Rev. S.J. Emmanuel,

    Absolutely.

    This is not the time for Religion to be Self-Centric.

    This is the 21st century, 470 years after Copernicus, 400 years after Galileo showed the phases of Venus,. 50 years after the structure of DNA was revealed, and 150 years after Darwin.

    The humans have 46 chromosomes, and our closest primates have 48.

    Yes, the Religions preach their dogma, their hate, their myths, so that the Monks, the Priests, the Mullahs and Ulamas can keep and maintain their hegemony.

    Here is some information for you to give thoughts to.

    You will find it in Hinduism, Buddhism(rebirth, )Judaism and Christianity as well to various degrees.

    All based on myths so that the Monks, Priests, Mullahs etc can maintain hegemony in this life.

    Biggest Error in the Quran and the Bible. We come from Monkeys!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5Fy9wCGZz4

    Next Life Hypotheses…

    Indians always wait for the the next life, 84 miilion, of next life…

    Global Misleading and Origins of Misery

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQl2UK7tfvs

    Lady believes in Virgin Birth. Dawkins gets MAD!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaSXcdlBRig

    Buddha rejects creator GOD. BE AN INDEPENDENT THINKER

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU7wYt-mcyw

    • 0
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      “Here is some information for you to give thoughts to.”

      Everyone wants to go to heaven after death but no one knows what the hell that looks like.

      So those wise Pharaoh’s preferred to stay entombed ma ma mia here we go again.

      • 0
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        This Dr guy is guaranteed of going to HELL for the crimes he supported with LTTE…

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          If so think of the place the war criminals will be going. HellHell or what.

      • 0
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        Javi,

        “Everyone wants to go to heaven after death but no one knows what the hell that looks like”

        Here are some alternative views.

        Christopher Hitchens vs. God (god loses by the way)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogd-yh7orfo

        Uploaded on Feb 20, 2012
        Christopher Hitchens’ opening statement on god during the Hitchens vs Hitchens debate.

        Hitchens ’07: god Is Not Great

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFXVR8W5Ngw

  • 0
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    Tamils are naturally [Edited out]

    Tamilnadu Tamils don’t like Hindi or Hindus. yeT they love, English and to behave like British.

    Tamils migrated to Sri Lanka are the Same. [Edited out].

    they want them to be the rulers even though they can not do it.

    this so-called God’s messenger is preaching HATRED, REVENGE and TRIBALISM here.

    He simply does not feel any SHAME.

    Otherwise, how come those who always talk about SELF in their religion talk about working without a SELF or working in a SELF-LESS manner. Then they are rejecting their own religion.

    • 0
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      Typical Sri Lankan . Talking out of point.

  • 0
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    I can not understand why a man preaches about SELF in his religion is asking Buddhists or sri Lanka to be SELF-LESS.

    What he is contradicting ?

  • 0
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    Bishops can come and bishops can go. Can you answer the question: After 1948 did a single colonial law that discriminated against Buddhists remove by a single Sinhala Buddhist colombo government?

    • 0
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      No point asking this question from Rev Emmanuel, mate. You should have asked Sena, Banda, and the rest that followed them. They were your very own kind, weren’t they?

    • 0
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      C Wije- Should you not be asking the Sinhala Buddhist “Colombo” Government that question?

    • 0
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      if you knew Bishop Luckshman, you would never make a statement like that.

      Bishops may come and go but there will NEVER be another like him !

  • 0
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    [Edited out] talking rubbish. Thins guys is still trying hard to create tension among people rather than trying to help people at ground level. What have you doe to rebuld the lifes of tamils in the north or east? Get a life and stay in UK…

    • 0
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      Looks like you have had your head buried in the sand the last year or so. The division you talk about is being created by the Bodu Balla Sena and the Sinhala Ravaya raving loonies with the help and support of the Rajapaksa brothers. Pull your head out of the sand, man.

      • 0
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        If your saying that I had my head buried in the sand! Then you may be blind as a bat.. not to see this guys connections with the LTTE. These were the guys operating from other countries who are creating all dihamony among people. Are you sooo freeking blind to see tamils living among sinhala and musilms all over the country???? Guess you may be another LTTE loonie living in asylum trying to propogate separatism as this so called Dr.

      • 0
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        piranha
        Kris head was not buried in the sand it was in Gota’s[Edited out]

  • 0
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    Is this the guy [Edited out]

    • 0
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      Yes, he is the guy with the stick who is going to give you a whipping at the next UNHRC meeting. Ok?

  • 0
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    “he reached out to all ethnic communities and religions and their leaders with a sincere love for a peaceful country”
    -Yes Rev.Bishop reached out to all ethnic communities…not you,its because you are a racist.

    -Rev.Bishop sincerely wanted peace in SL,you supported and propagated war in SL

    True catholics are ashamed of you

  • 0
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    “True catholics are ashamed of you”

    I as a RC am asking you who gave you the authority to judge another as a true or pretend catholic.

    “Yes Rev.Bishop reached out to all ethnic communities…not you,its because you are a racist.”
    Could it be that you feel this way because your a racist. You have no room in your heart or the wisdom to stand in another’s shoes but call your self a “True Catholic”.

    • 0
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      What is this RC means Real Criminal

  • 0
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    Never mind the poor rural Sinhala Buddhists, and Baby Monks, did this Reverend apologize to the poor Muslims ,at least on behalf of the Tamils, for killing 300 ,innocent old and young who were on their knees praying?.

  • 0
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    Did this Reverend apologize to the poor Muslims ,at least on behalf of the Tamils, for killing 300 ,innocent old and young who were on their knees praying?.

  • 0
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    Blood on your hands, fake [Edited out]! Get lost.

  • 0
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  • 0
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  • 0
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    Yes. Rev Bishop reached out to at ethnicities.
    YOU………… created Martyrs out of innocent Tamil Children of the North.
    We are aware how you manupilated semenarians & preached them when you were in charge of Jaffna seminary. We know some who embraced the priesthood at the time who are priests now.

    YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO THE PEACE LOVING PEOPLE OF THE NORTH AND TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
    How do we blamed the buddhist priest knowing your behaviour in cassoack & your influence on OMI’s on the Australia. All of you OMI’s are on a hidden mission in Sri Lanka.
    YOU CAN NOT FOOL ALL PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. The vatican & ex Pope Benedict was in comlicit with you. Wonder how many times you met Benedict 16 after his retirement who is involved in wheeler dealung behind the Papal scene.

    • 0
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      Looks like God Child of Doglas

  • 0
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    CT editors – you are sleeping with minority pimps

  • 0
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