Next year, 2018, Sri Lanka will be marking the 70th anniversary of our independence. This will be a milestone in our journey as a re-born nation. In our build up to this event it is important that we look soberly and honestly at the ‘balance sheet’ of our successes and failures over the past seven decades.
There will be no contesting the fact that among all the former British colonies it was Sri Lanka that was thought to have the best chance of rapid economic and social development. The words of the late visionary Singaporean leader are very often quoted in this regard. Equally, there will be no dispute that the greatest drawback to our development as a united nation has been racial conflict, linguistic strife, and religious conflict” – the words once again of Lee Kwan Yew.
It saddens and pains me that after coming through a hugely destructive 30 year war, destructive not only in pure economic terms but in terms of the huge damage it has done to our society, our values, morals, ethics and our standing in the family of nations, that we are being provoked and pushed once more into another dangerous conflict which has the potential to push this country once again to the brink of a new disastrous period of unrest and violence
I refer of course to the provocative, acts of hostility and violence against the Muslim community by the shortsighted and shameful actions of the Bodhu Bala Sena, its leadership and its camp followers.
Although there was a lull in such incidents after 2015, it would appear that the BBS has been emboldened in recent days by the lethargy and indifference of the government. This government needs to be strongly reminded that one of the main reasons the minorities voted for it three years ago was its stance against the intimidation and violence against ethnic and religious minorities.
The government also ignores such provocative acts at its own peril. If it does not send a clear message to the country that it will not tolerate hate crimes against any group, it is paving the way for its own demise as well as leaving the door open to another prolonged period of religious and ethnic strife, economic stagnation and international opprobrium.
No religion teaches hate and violence against others. Furthermore, there are civilized methods of dealing with disagreement and issues that one group may have against another. It is also the duty of all religious groups to actively promote the peaceful resolution of differences and misunderstandings. This is the minimum that we owe our country and its people for the common good of all.
Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj R. Canagasabey
The Bishop of Colombo