SL Christians criticize Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hypocrisy
By Melani Manel Perera
COLOMBO – Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who spoke at G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna (Italy), on the theme ‘Time to Heal: Peace among Cultures, Understanding between Religions’ has been criticized by Christian leaders in Sri Lanka for failing to highlight the real problems that affect religious coexistence in the country.
While stressing that extremist ideology represents one of the most serious global challenges, Rajapaksa did not mention the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks against three churches, and did not condemn Buddhist supremacist movements, which according to a two-year National Commission of Inquiry, was blamed for religious intolerance in the country, a contributory factor for the attacks..
Rajapaksa instead just hinted that education might be a solution to extremism, noting that “It is the duty of policymakers and educationists, through the curriculum and methods of teaching in our schools and universities, to emphasize what all religions share in common, the areas of consensus rather than the points reflecting differences.”
Herman Kumara, convenor of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo said it was hypocritical to say something and do something else. “The prime minister talks about ethnic and religious diversity at the conference but does the total opposite back home,” he said.
The activist said Sri Lankans have seen previous governments promote Buddhist supremacy while the current one has changed nothing. “Now violent speeches are addressed against Christians and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith,” he noted, adding, “If you really want peace, something should be done against the hate speech of Buddhist monks.”
Fr, Rohan Silva, Director, Centre for Society and Religion, agreed. “Our prime minister spoke well of the need to reject extremism in all its forms. Unfortunately, he did not say a single word about the victims of the Easter attacks, which the government claims were perpetrated by Muslim extremist groups.”
Directing a question at Rajapaksa, he asked, “Can he confirm the suspicion that all of us have that it was the result of a ‘grand conspiracy’?”
The clergyman urged the prime minister to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry regarding extremist groups in Sri Lanka, which include banning extremist entities.
In Bologna, a group of Sri Lankans living in Italy protested near the place where Rajapaksa was staying, demanding justice for the Easter attacks. Some signs read: ‘Hiding the truth!’ and ‘Who’s the evil mastermind behind [these attacks?’
The three-day Interfaith Forum opened, which opened in Bologna’s Palazzo Re Enzo on Sunday (12), bought together 370 people, including religious leaders, politicians, scientists and cultural activists from 70 countries, who met during 32 working sessions.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the inaugural session of the G20 Inter-Religious Forum in Bologna, Italy, on Sunday (12) – PM’s Office