By Father S.J. Emmanuel –
On Today Tuesday 23rd. April 2019, for the national day of mourning in honor of all the victims of the evil forces let loose on 2019 Easter Sunday, a great Feast day, when Christians proclaimed and celebrated victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ, I wrote an appeal to all people of Sri Lanka, with the title – Forces of sin and death striking at those celebrating victory over them: A Question of conscience to followers of all religions – It was published in the Colombo Telegraph on the 23rd and 25th April 2019. Commemorating three years after in 2022, I felt the need to remind readers of all faiths about my then appeal then for calm and to add a special appeal now to the catholic church about their Christian response to the events.
Then I wrote…..
All Sri Lankans mourn & reflect
We as a whole nation of many ethnicities and religions are one in observing this national mourning in against humanity sympathy with the victims of this horror but also as a protest against the forces of evil. Although the horrific incidents occurred in particular places chosen by the evil-doers according to their intent and convenience, it’s a wake up call to all Sri Lankans, especially as followers of all four religions.
Let’s look into our own religions and surroundings
As one belonging to the Christian religion, I like to invite the faithful and leaders of all four religions in Sri Lanka, to go deeper into their own faiths, not only to identify any weakness for evil to thrive even within the sanctum of their religions and weed out those evils, but also to fight against these evils, present outside the walls of religion in our societies.
How did these religions appear on earth
In looking within our own religions let us first weed out our misunderstandings about religion. No religion, as religion, is formulated and founded by God. God remains a nameless, formless, super-human power (Albert Einstein) behind all the wonders of creation we see and explore. But to man, helplessly wondering and searching for the power-beyond, God has revealed himself to all mankind in various ways and in various times. These revelations to mankind have given birth to various religions among all people originating from all corners of the earth.
No religion can claim exclusivity of any kind
All religions have taken their origins from some form of revelation and been built up by men with formulas of faith, rituals and morals. All religions have grown among men to help man recognize his nature and end, and to help him struggle against the forces of evil and death and live a morally good life. In short, religions are at the service of men, not vice versa.
Christianity proclaims & celebrate Easter
My own religion is one of these – taking its origin in God’s revelation to the Israelites in their history where Jesus born a Jew, reveals himself as the Messiah or Redeemer of humanity, announces the coming of God’s Kingdom, suffers death in the hands of the Jewish & Roman authorities, and rises from death as Risen Christ, establishing victory over sin & death. It is this faith in Risen Christ conquering sin and death, that we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
All religions struggle against evil hoping in the victory of Good
Though religions started from divine revelations, yet the growth and formation of these religions are mostly the work of man, who believes and guided by super-natural divine or super human forces but remaining subject to evil forces of the world. Followers of all religions undertake a continuous struggle believing in the ultimate victory of good against the evil forces of sin in this world. Hence the commonality of all religions to struggle against surrounding evil forces believing and hoping in the triumph and liberation of the good.
Adam’s Peak – a standing reminder to all Sri Lankans
In Sri Lanka we have Adam’s Peak, visited by followers of all four religions, and claiming to recognize the feet of Buddha, Siva, Mohamed and Adam. Prof. Hans Kueng of Tubingen, a world renowned theologian, in studying the religions of the world, has opened his film with a scene at Adam’s Peak pointing out the potentialities for common understanding among religions.
We Sri Lankans after a long period of ethnic conflict and civil war, are struggling to rebuild Sri Lanka, a multi ethnic multi religious communities, a united island of peaceful coexistence for all. Though politicians and governments make blunders in handling our situation and not at all cooperating with those inside and outside the country to rebuilding, true followers and leaders of all religions must respond to the wake up call on Easter Sunday:-
1. Do not allow any room for evil to thrive even within the walls of your religion. Within a man-made religion, it is natural for humans to descend into extremism and fundamentalism which ignites hate and anger against other faiths.
2. In combating evil forces in our society, do not stop with mere armchair condemnations, but come out of your religious houses, join hands with other civic and political leaders to cry halt to evil.
More harm is done by the passivity of good people than by the activity of the evil
My second appeal now in 2022, is a short one directed specially to my own church- to leaders as well as to the faithful calling for
A Review of the Christian Response after three years
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, on behalf of the catholic church, then did well in calling for calm from all sides and turned to look after the victims of the attacks.
In the meantime, suspicion over perpetrators and collaborators, even from the government grew. The cardinal rightly called for full and fair investigations, but disappointed with the slow and suspicious efforts of the government, he intensified his call louder at international level and with Pope as the head of the church.
Three years now after the event, the commemoration of the event by the church has taken, sadly political overtones due to Cardinal pointing accusing finger at certain politicians.
It is in this context, I now write a short reminder, especially to keep to a true Christian response following the model of Jesus Christ.
In John 8. 1-11, we read “ the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
From the above, Christians must learn the following.
- The Jewish teachers of religious law and pharisees, believing in salvation through observance of law, wanted to stone her to death. But Jesus did not react to their understanding of salvation, nor doubt the sin of the woman. Jesus knew catching the culprit and punishing the sinner was the belief of the teachers and pharisees. But he questions their power to punish and kill her.
- He forgives her, the sinner, and sent her away with the admonition – sin no more!
- Hence the catholic church of today, should not over-react or spend too much energies, in finding out the culprits and getting them punished. That is left to the government and law authorities, though weak and corrupt they may be.
- But the church should be vigilant, condemn and protest against injustices at all times and against any section of the population, in a non-political manner.
- Conspicuous silence of the church in the past, with respect to gross injustices and mass-killings on our island, have been sinful and scandalous in the past. Hence as followers of Jesus Christ, let us be vigilant about injustices and killings and protest in a non-political manner as true followers of Jesus Christ.
I hope and pray that my appeal to my brothers and sisters for magnanimous forgiveness and courageous protest, imitating Jesus, be well understood!