Spirit of pluralism | Daily News

Spirit of pluralism

The Iftar gathering organised by the Sri Lanka Muslim Civil Society (SLMCS)  at the Colombo Town Hall on May 25. Picture by Chaminda Niroshana
The Iftar gathering organised by the Sri Lanka Muslim Civil Society (SLMCS) at the Colombo Town Hall on May 25. Picture by Chaminda Niroshana

To alleviate the fear, anxiety and suspicion of our fellow citizens, particularly Muslims who have been accused of a crime which they themselves reject in horror, we should be committed. Let me repeat. Let us not retire our remorse, our human loyalty and the basic responsibilities of citizenship when we are called upon to affirm these things in the service of another section of humanity.

Apparently, doctors, engineers, and all professionals currently resident in the United Kingdom, US and other able countries wanted to send a message calling all mosques to ask Muslims to step out and light a Buddhist lantern outside their homes in the past Vesak. This indicates unfortunate misery they are in. Why should Muslims do such things in a democracy? The Buddha always said if one is convinced of teachings only pay respect to him and his order. It would be a sign and a positive sign only if you are convinced; otherwise, it is a sign of surrender to bigotry Buddhist extremists.

There can be other things that the Muslim community can do, but not bow down to fascistic intimidate. The same goes for other religious communities. It was reported that Venerable Baddiya Thera spoke to Buddhists; His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith speaks to the Catholics. Members of the clergy belonging to other faiths no doubt will speak to their respective flocks. Yes, they could get together and help the anti-fascist campaign of the Yahapalanaya led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Fascistic terrorism

When schoolmates and friends in abroad, concerns were raised about issues of safety, we must thank them but insist that we will take care of all families to the best of our ability under Yahapalanaya. We are part of one family. Other would take care of me and I would take care of him, no need to elaborate. I speak only for myself and my comrades, but each one of us can, and perhaps should, consider speaking for her. Hopefully in ways that heal and bring people together; rather than drive them apart. The fight is all ways necessary, the threat at hand: fascistic terrorism. It would be a fitting tribute to those who laid down their lives to rid this country of the terrorist menace and bring in devolution and amity accepted a decade ago.

The recent statements from foreign specialist and well-wishers against violent extremism and hate speech, showed clearly they remind us of the responsibility to protect; and very sadly they are alarmed about the growing acts of violence on the basis of religion, including attacks against homes, places of worship and businesses, in several Provinces of Sri Lanka. It has ceased according to Yahapalana leaders, only some monks and fascistic elements are actively campaigning against Muslims. The recent spate of attacks against Muslim communities in Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist country has been condemned strongly by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The attacks committed recently followed deadly attacks carried out on Easter Sunday of April 21, 2019, by an ISIS organised group against churches and hotels in various parts of the country in which more than 200 people were killed and hundreds were injured. However, these alien ideological people have been captured or killed.

Premier Wickremesinghe explained the situation recently to all active supporters of the regime. The campaigns that treacherously claim that the attack on Christian churches is made by local Muslims, led to the recent violence in Sri Lanka. This treacherous campaign target local Muslims has highlighted a growing influence of nationalist and extremist views of identity in Lanka, putting religious minorities at risk.

The Foreign Advisers stated that “it is in the interest of all ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka, as well as the Government, the opposition, civil society and the security sector, to work collaboratively in taking appropriate action and immediately stop these hateful attacks. The country is trying to move forward from a traumatic period of inter-ethnic armed conflict, but these attacks are pushing Sri Lanka backwards. If not adequately dealt with, the recent violence has the potential to escalate even further.”

Political and civil society activists

The Advisers send by friendly countries acknowledged and welcomed the swift response of the Government, including by deploying the Security Forces to protect affected communities, and political and civil society activists to address and stop the spread of false information and incitement to violence. They also encouraged the Government to make sure that these and other past similar attacks are fully investigated and those responsible for instigating or committing these violent acts are brought to justice and made accountable.

The political and civil advisers insisted that the Government needs to give the example that it will not tolerate the spread of prejudice and hate among groups within its population. This needs to be done at the national and local level, by putting an end to local discriminatory practices that perpetuate religious intolerance and violence. All Yahapalana activists offered their support to work with the Government on inter-faith and inter-religious harmony and inclusivity. This was accepted by the organisations of the Muslims and other support organisations.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with vigour addressed meetings stating that “Sri Lanka has a pluralistic society. As a Sri Lankan one could be a Buddhist, be a Hindu, be a Muslim, or be a Christian. All these communities are entitled to their identity, to freely exercise their religion and to live in peace and security in Sri Lanka, as recognized by the country’s Constitution. We call on all Sri Lankans to respect one another.” In the meantime, many countries in the United Nations are concerned about emerging incidents of communal violence and tension in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. They called on the Government and the Security Forces to ensure that the situation does not escalate.

Fear, anxiety and suspicion

Obviously; who are we if we cannot take care of each other, especially suppressing anxiety, fear and suspicion? At this moment when we could best affirm our humanity, neighbourliness, friendship and loyalty? Nobody wants us to give into ISIS or any other heinous campaign. The call is not for dropping of the guard of course. Everybody pleads let not fear, suspicion and anxiety move us to displace fear by picking easy targets as proxies for ‘The Enemy’. Let us drop the fear. Let us not miss judge. Above all, let us not arrogate upon ourselves the tasks of the hunter and punisher. Let Police and Security Forces do their duty without anger and cruelty.

Let us be vigilant but resist all urges to revenge. Let not fear, anxiety and suspicion immobilize us to do nothing and be a burden to the society. To alleviate the fear, anxiety and suspicion of our fellow citizens, particularly Muslims who have been accused of a crime which they themselves reject in horror, we should be committed. Let me repeat. Let us not retire our remorse, our human loyalty and the basic responsibilities of citizenship when we are called upon to affirm these things in the service of another section of humanity.

 


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