Oh God! Why can’t we live and let live?

religious harmonyI am neither a religious fanatic nor a social activist. Just a helpless Sri Lankan who is deeply concerned and confused as to why there seems to be a growing undercurrent of religious rivalry. I have neither clout nor power to intervene but merely share my concerns and fears with likeminded fellow Sri Lankans through simple words. I like to urge those who care to see a peaceful country be actively alert and responsive to the rot that seems to be setting in, in the name of religion.
Some recent media articles, sms’s, social media posts and my ear to the ground social alertness makes me feel that the environment is like a silent but boiling volcano ready to erupt.
The fundamentalists of all faiths are fanning the fire of religious tensions and a large population seems to be falling into this trap.
On the one hand we have Christian fundamentalists converting Buddhists in hoards. Some of the conversion rituals apparently followed in the southern villages of Sri Lanka is appalling. The Christian fundamentalists are said to be placing the picture of Lord Buddha on the ground, trampling it and setting fire to it? Why such hatred? And what’s the gain, I ask myself.
Another group is creating a hate wave against the Muslims, by spreading romours that the Sinhala population has been reduced to a minority status by the Muslims. Did anybody promote smaller families for the Sinhala Buddhists? Not to my knowledge!
A boycott against Halal food is yet another hate campaign being carried out. In order to understand what Halal really means, I googled and here’s what I found:
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning “lawful” or “permissible”, and the term not only covers food and drink, but also to all matters of daily life. When it comes to halal food, most people think of meat foods only. However, Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and non-food items like cosmetics, are also halal. Frequently, these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslims to eat or use on their bodies. It further explains thus: The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law. The opposite of this word is haraam. Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared. The foods addressed are mostly types of meat/animal tissue.
I don’t see why non Islamists have to make such an issue about it. If each one of us feels we should not purchase Halal branded food it should be a personal choice. Why does one have to make a big issue proposing a boycott? Moreover, who benefits from this unwanted negative propaganda? It just creates religious rivalry that can be lethal if not curtailed early. The unseen forces behind these should be identified and dealt with.
Last week I overheard two young girls at a supermarket shelf saying “ganna issella balanna oke halal gahalada kiyala. Ganna nang epa halal gahapu ewa. Mata Muslim unwa pennanna bae” (before you buy please check if it is halal branded as I can’t stand Muslims). I was totally shocked to note how far this hate issue has traveled and felt helpless and scared at the repercussions. It is scary if vulnerable groups such as the youth of this country are influenced in this manner by those with vested interest to drive inter religious wedges. It is however, a recipe for success for those who believe in the ‘divide and rule’ strategy.
It is sad that some Marketers have used the Halal branding as a gimmick to make their products more attractive to a chosen target audience, creating a division amongst customers who would have bought non Halal branded products without any problem. Unfortunately the Muslim fundamentalists are pushing Islamic Laws beyond reasonable limits and the Buddhist fundamentalists are responding equally strongly. I like to share a simple Buddhist concept of Vairayen Vairaya Nosansinde. Aavairayenma vairaya sansinde. Which means only compassion wins over hatred and not hatred itself.
This brings me to a media article that caught my eye which makes the situation scarier. The headline of the article on Daily Mirror of 23/01/13 says “Bodu Bala Sena against multi-religious nation”. The article captures the mindset of a Buddhist fundamentalist group calling themselves Bodu Bala Sena who say “We like to live in harmony with other religions, but we want a Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka” It further opines “representatives of the other religions should not be seated with Buddhist monks”.
What kind of ‘Upeksha’ is this from the Buddhist clergy themselves?
Why is it that a public official taking office literally bathes in ‘pirith pan’, covering his arm with ‘pirith nool’ and runs to see the Mahanayakes when all his life he has been a Christian? Why can’t all religious leaders bless him if he wants religious blessings? We saw that with the new CJ as much as we’ve seen it a thousand times before. It is sad that one needs to be a pseudo Buddhist to be accepted in our society.
Then I read yet another article which talks about ‘Blood Ivory in Temples’ courtesy Daily Mirror of 23/01/13. It said “the customs received a directive from the president’s office to release the contraband Blood Ivory consisting 359 tusks for which 179 African elephants had been butchered”. Due to an order for 359 elephant tusks requested for the Sri Lankan temples by none other the leader of the land himself, hundreds of elephants are killed in Africa. Yes, it is in order, because we are a Buddhist country! All temples need to be adorned with ivory tusks. Can some sanity prevail in this beautiful island nation of ours? This is what we do in the name of Buddhism in this country.
The final news item that made me sick was that a Liquor Bar has been opened in Bentota named “Buddha Bar”. Bodu Bala Sena has ambushed this bar, while the authorities concerned seemed to have acted as the proverbial three monkeys when a license should have been obtained to start a bar with with such a blasphemous name. So where are our checks and balances? Do we become a Buddhist country only when it suits us? I am confused.
The bottom line to all this is that there is fundamentalism creeping in to this country, be it Buddhists, Christians or Islamists and we need to rise against it. Needless to say we all need to view religious beliefs in moderation to lead a multi ethnic, multiracial and multicultural life in our country, if we are to enjoy our newly acquired peace. We need to rise beyond petty racial and religious divisions if we are to stand tall as one country and one nation. We have much to achieve as a united nation. Let us all chip in to make this a harmonious country by squashing rumours and extremist activities within our small universe. That’s the best we can do to save our gullible and vulnerable nation. Why can’t we all look at the fundamentals of our respective religious beliefs and follow the concept of harmonious living that each religion and faith teaches, instead of trying to put down another? It’s time we all tried to follow the ‘live and let live’ principle.
Let me conclude by sharing an interesting comment made about the Sinhala Buddhist mentality of our country. Somebody once said, “We are a majority race with a minority complex” (author unknown) and I raise my glass of chilled water to that.


About lifeisabeach

love to use communication as a tool of passionate expression of personal views
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