Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Canagasabey speaking at a media briefing said politicians are ruining Sri Lanka. Rt. Revd. Canagasabey called on religious leaders, civil society and all citizens who truly love Sri Lanka to unite and formulate policies and mobilise the people to rebuild Sri Lanka. He called on Sri Lanka to unite to build a peaceful new nation from the succession of tragedies faced by the country.
Meanwhile, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith emerged in no time as an astute religious leader. In a striking departure from the generally-conservative nature of the Catholic Church, he did not hesitate to criticise the leaders and policymakers for the carnage. He demonstrated compassion and humility for all people across religious and ethnic divides, while extremist elements were busy driving fear psychosis across all communities.
Statements by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith directly contributed to unify all religions, even including non-believers. He also courageously confronted the extremist elements. Throughout these two weeks, the Cardinal revealed and displayed his willingness to stir up the status quo, emphasise God’s mercy, concern for the poor and commitment to inter-faith dialogue.
The Cardinal steadfastly appealed to all Sri Lankans not to demonise all Muslims for the sins of a few extremists. He said the Muslim community must be treated with respect and understanding. He told the Muslim leaders to open themselves to dialogue and reconciliation, thereby altering the minds of so many people to remain calm.
Cardinal Ranjith is a seasoned diplomat having served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia. The largest Muslim population in a country is in Indonesia, a nation home to 12.7% of the world›s Muslims.
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s and the Catholic clergy’s ability to lead the Christian community at this very crucial time saved the day for Sri Lanka. The Cardinal spoke clearly, firmly and without fear. Catholics were told that reprisals would not be tolerated. Tightly-bonded, disciplined and God-fearing, they listened and did what a Christian is expected to do.
The country of about 70% Buddhists also listened to his message. They were astonished, amazed and inspired by this matured response. To the Muslims, Cardinal Ranjith and his clergy were their saviour. They will be forever indebted to him. Also for the inconsolable, grief-stricken Catholics, his words of sanity forced them to trust in prayer.
The Cardinal engaged with the Government openly while keeping his identity clear and independent. When the Government sounded distant and dispassionate, he criticised them. He said publicly that he is not satisfied with how security was being handled by this Government. After one day he even refused to ride in the bulletproof vehicle given by the Government, saying the Shepherd would protect him.
The immediate future for Sri Lanka is no doubt packed with uncertainty. The media must understand this and not spread negativity, because they control the minds of the masses. Unfortunately, media sometimes do not abide by moral standards, which in turn sends mixed messages to our society, and these messages are demoralising, desensitising, and false.
Perhaps this is why the Anglican Bishop Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Canagasabey appealed to the media to be aware of the enormous power they have, saying they can either make this country or kill it with their pen. “Please be restrained and prudent in your reporting,” he said.
The public loathing for all politicians has been reinforced. The politicians must know where the buck stops. This tragic calamity will not be forgotten for years. We have a solid history of supporting grassroots efforts to create safe communities through societal change.
Cardinal Ranjith has embarked on a new tenure characterised by humility and outspoken support of the affected people, and he needs to be involved actively from now on to help those capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.
His effort should not only be directed exclusively to Roman Catholics, but to everyone who would spark others to follow suit.
By Dinesh Weerakkody (This article originally appeared on ft.lk)