By Riza Yehiya
As the days pass by since the 21 April Easter Sunday Terror Strike on Sri Lanka, the dark cloud hovering over us seems to be passing by the truthfulness displayed by community leaders. The debilitating terror attack on the churches and hotels though optically seen as attacks on Christians, is in reality an attack on Sri Lanka focused on destabilisation and disintegration of the economy and society. This sinister attack is to engulf the country in a three-way religious/communal conflict between Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists, drawing Sinhalese and Tamils to the fray. Has the aftermath of the attack gone the way desired by the enemies, we would have seen a pogrom crueller and debilitating than the 1983 pogrom against the Tamil community then? Such a catastrophe would have sent Sri Lanka back from the recent socio-economic gains that we have been achieving since 2009, to join countries like Somalia or Rwanda. Such an event breeds anarchy and lawlessness and would drive us down the precipice of internecine war between communities for the next five decades, potentially.
In this highly charged volatile situation that is challenging the very existence of the socio-economic fabric of the Nation, emerged the blessed paragons of peace not as peacemakers, but as truth seekers. Who spoke the truth audaciously amidst challenges to their very existence if misfired? The Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who from day one displayed angelic leadership shepherding his Christian flock to restrain from violent backlash on Muslims the ingenious attack perceivably making Muslims culpable. He displayed rare leadership qualities hitherto never displayed by any national leaders. His understanding of the Sri Lankan society, the political, economic, and geopolitical challenges facing the country is beyond the brainwave of many of our national leaders. This mixed with his sincerity, truthfulness, and equanimity at this historically-testing time is a benchmark for future leaders to emulate. His leadership on both spiritual and temporal guidance is springing forth from his erudition of both the religion and society. Hence, he is best placed at the need of the hour at the most testing of times in the history of Sri Lanka.
His recent speech, delivered on 10 May 2019 circulated widely on social media, is an eye-opener which possibly no political leaders dared to speak about. In this speech, he gave lessons in geopolitics, globalisation, neo-liberalism challenging strategically-placed small States like Sri Lanka. He claimed that Western hegemony, military industrial complex, and their intent on economic plunder of vulnerable States as the reason for instrumentalising ISIS to attack Sri Lanka. He noted the role played by the Western funding agencies, which is designed to make us dependent and Western intelligence agencies, in particular, Mossad, the Israeli spy agency penetrating and influencing our political economy to their geo-strategic advantages as the current norms in contemporary world politics. He also noted that possibly these anarchic machineries made use of misguided youth to execute this terrorist attack for which the Muslim community is not blameworthy.
Archbishop of Colombo
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith represents the aggrieved party; the Christians. He has all the right to be emotional as a human, but he being a man of God, and above all a Christian, demonstrated the essence of what is called in English, ‘Christian Gentleman.’ His faith in God in truthfulness, answerability to God, and his responsibility to direct his followers and love of mankind and the country makes him to emerge a paragon of peace guiding Sri Lanka at the most difficult of times.
Similarly, the Buddhist clergy, the Mahanayakas too have displayed leadership at the highest levels, though not seemingly visible as Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith is. They too displayed great responsibility and equanimity, contributing to maintenance of peace at this most volatile situation in the country. Their understanding of the genesis of the attack and non-culpability of the Muslim community in this crime laden with geopolitical interest using ISIS façade shows their erudition and astuteness in leadership.
The Muslim community perceivably is put on the dock as the accused. In reality, they are a victim of a plot against the country which implicates them similar to similar such attacks in other countries, where Muslims often get accused after such terror incidents. Islamophobia propounded by the Western Media is one side of the coin of Western hegemonic intent, the other being geopolitical strangulations. Sri Lanka too has Islamophobia imported and localised by the Buddhist/Hindutwa extremist groups possibly working unwittingly in support of Western hegemonistic interests.
The Muslim community leadership sensing a threat to national security, on its part, provided intelligence to the authorities of the possible emergence of violent extremism. However, as is publicly known now, the lack of rigor and due diligence by those responsible and the inept political leadership contributed to this calamity. The Muslims, as responsible and peace loving citizens, played their civic role in giving advance warning of the emergence of extremist groups, and at the same time guided their community to maintain the highest degree of patience when Aluthgama, Ampara, and Digana were attacked by Buddhist extremists. Similarly, maintain patience in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attack which unjustly labels them complicity in terrorism as perceived. After 21 April, the Sri Lankan Muslims overnight were reduced to being aliens in their own country and subjected to suspicion by the fellow citizens. As a consequence, the edifice of trust, dignity, and cordiality which were hallmarks of excellent community relationship collapsed sequel to this incident. Further compounding the fast deteriorating situation, implicate some of the irresponsible media, who were fishing in troubled water viz. creating suspicion of Muslim religious institutions as terror infrastructure, unethical reporting, and exaggerating the ban on ‘face cover.’ This can make Muslims become isolated and marginalised with the potential for easy radicalisation. Therefore, the role played by the Christian and Buddhist clergy in particular, by standing for the right cause of truth and allaying the fears of the Muslims is the way forward to Nation-building.
The Muslim community, contrary to assertion by many, not only condemned and shunned terrorism, but also joined hands with the Security Forces to help identify and arrest by willingly handing over their sons/daughters complicit or suspicious to the security forces. This is a testament to their real stand on terror. Historically, in the past terror history with the LTTE and JVP, their families and communities protected and sheltered such harmful and suspicious elements, and hence war on terror became protracted, costing lives and money to the country. Muslim rejection of terrorism and their leadership standing together with the other communities against terrorism augers well for the stability of the country.
Sri Lankans may not have the wherewithal to face the manipulations of the hegemonistic forces. However, the most formidable weapons Sri Lanka as a Nation has is the Buddhist and Hindu equanimity, Christian love, and the Muslim brotherhood of humanity.
Let us as Sri Lankans unite based on truth, righteousness, justice, and humility, and strengthen our Mother Lanka.
About the writer:
The writer in an Architect/Sustainability Consultant.