RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM AND POLITICS | Daily News

RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM AND POLITICS

In all parts of Sri Lanka there are many Buddhist viharas, chaityas, Hindu Kovils, Muslim Mosques, Christian Churches and prayer centres. Many Sri Lankans frequent them regularly.

Among the several religious traditions in Sri Lanka, Buddhism takes the first place with about 70.2% of the people being Theravada Buddhists, with 12.6% Hindus, 9.7% Muslims (of the Sunni sect), 6.1% Roman Catholics and 1.3% Anglican, Methodist and other Christians, 0.1% other religions such as Bahai’s according to the 2011 census.

There are four main religions in Sri Lanka: Buddhism which along with the Theravada tradition has a Mahayana tradition, Islam which has besides Sunni and Sufi traditions, a Wahaabi tradition that has come to Sri Lanka, Christians which besides the Catholic Church has the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and mainline Protestant traditions. There are also splinter groups of Christian sects and Muslim sects.

Adherents of religions go to their particular place of worship. There are many who also go to places of worship to invoke the downfall and punishment of others, which is not in keeping with religious sentiments. But in the face of various problems of life and many challenges many go to a place of worship other than their own to seek solace and spiritual refuge truly believing and experiencing the help they seek.

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE, NO MIXTURE OF RELIGIONS

Though people follow different religions, they are compelled, especially today, to live together, close to one another, as co-workers, co-citizens, friends and neighbours. In workplaces and places of worship, different nationalities and ethnic groups come together. In homes, schools, workplaces and places of worship, all should imbibe a culture not only of tolerance but respect towards fellow human beings, of human dignity and rights, mutual acceptance and human solidarity.

Concurrently, religious syncretism is also a very visible phenomenon in our midst. It is a mixture and a practice of amalgamating and fusing of beliefs and observances of different religions. Superficial similarities in the elements of one’s religion, the doctrines, practices, and teachings are fused and incorporated into another religion. Or beliefs, practices and observances quite in contrast to one’s religion are seeking refuge in distress, hoping for relief. Many only hope for relief, not resorting to any logical synthesis of belief.

Unthinking followers of one religion could tend to be affected by the acts of their kith and kin and friends and follow syncretistic practices. Thus dualistic elements, with underlying beliefs that are contradictory, arising from a variety of religious systems enter into religious practice.

Different religions may look upon these practices in different ways and analyze them differently. It is good to visit religious places. It is one thing to see and even respectfully observe how others worship; it is quite another to actively participate in worship.

As for the Catholic Church, she values and appreciates all that she finds as true, good and holy in other religions. But she does not accept and accommodate herself to syncretistic elements – beliefs, practices, religious traditions that rituals, ‘offerings’ that imply belief – that are incompatible with the Christian teachings upheld by the Catholic Church. Accordingly, the Catholic Church cannot amalgamate or merge religious beliefs to her faith. Even non-Christians are free to come to her Churches, to some extent assist at worship or be respectfully present. She also invokes God’s blessings on anyone who prays for it.

The Catholic Church wishes to uphold freedom of all people everywhere on earth to adopt and communicate to others their religious faith without compelling anyone to embrace a faith. She promotes interreligious dialogue to restore to all persons the values of human dignity and human rights and create better understanding among various religions so that social harmony may open the way to social collaboration, progress, development, true fraternity and peace nationally and internationally.

MORALLY BANKRUPT POLITICIANS

In a social milieu like Sri Lanka, where Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and a few other religionists live and intermingle with one another, we notice many politicians wanting to accommodate themselves to the adherents of religions other than their own. Though some of them frequently visit all places of worship, their knowledge of their own religion or that of others is very shallow. Wishing to show harmony with other religionists, they engage in attitudes and actions counter to their own beliefs. For example some Catholic Christian MPs participate in ceremonies of worship, take sil and tie pirith thread, offer flowers at Buddhist temples, be bare-bodied at Hindu kovils; they resort to populist political tactics to attract attention to themselves and convey a skewed message of one’s beliefs.

In certain circumstances, respectful presence is quite sufficient to show solidarity to other religionists without being inconsistent and sending to people a message tinged with a particular nuance to gain political support. Objectively, they are duplicitous. Subjectively they may be superficial, erratic and cock-eyed. The traditional Buddhist wish ‘May all beings be happy’ is a bidding that all can accept.

Politics should be a social service embracing the whole of society and all the people conserving for them and the future generations their earthly environment. Men and women of the highest integrity should be engaged in politics.

Today, many politicians exploit the whole of society and the people of all economic conditions and also exploit the State to the very maximum. Many of them also make use of religion for their political ends. They are shameless. Whereas, politicians should stand on principles, be true to themselves and seek support on the soundness, reliability and feasibility of their policies for the well-being and good of all the people.

Politicians must show themselves as persons worthy of public trust and are at the service of all the people, without setting one against another, or one community against another community. They should appeal to the minds and convictions of people with truth and values all need to uphold and respect and not manipulate them with questionable manoeuvres, least of all with cunning tricks overlaid by and coated with religious flavour. Such deception cannot be a part of honourable persons.

None of us are without some fault. While all are called to acknowledge one’s faults and change for the better, the people should immediately exclude those incorrigible politicians with flawed characters and glaring culpabilities. They are irredeemably corrupt. They impact adversely on the whole of society and should not be entrusted with any responsible position.

Religions do not preach hatred, animosity, revenge, vindictiveness, retaliation, reprisal, violence and bloodshed. Well educated, civilized and cultured people of good character have overcome and left behind from their lives these inhuman blemishes and social flaws. Religions are associated with virtue, truthfulness, honesty, goodness, humility, patience, benevolence, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and the courage to be bold in loving kindness even in difficult circumstances.

Religious leaders should embody in themselves and instill these qualities, especially by example, in the lives of the people, including the politicians who should be open to continuous change and conversion of heart and purification of character. The people should discard from politics worthless men and women greedy for power and morally bankrupt of good human qualities and social sense. Sri Lanka needs a band of virtuous leaders in politics. 


 

Add new comment