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Ethno-Religious tension in Sri Lanka (09 - 03 - 2018)

Once again the ugly face of ethno-religious identities in Sri Lanka has been raising its head with destruction of properties and human life. It has been reported that personal and minor issues have been blown as major issues and shaped into ethnic and religious conflict. This has been very visible in Ampara in the Eastern province and Theldeniya in the central province of this Island. In the past few days mob violence, hate speeches, heightened tensions and destruction of religious places  has spread into the surrounding areas of the Digana-Theldeniya administrative regions. To control the situation the police had to impose ‘police curfew’ as well as call for STF to step in to manage violent acts and safeguard human and other resources. Yesterday the President declared a nationwide ten day emergency period recognizing the serious nature of this calamity. 

After 30 years of civil tension we Sri Lankans are yet to learn to live as brothers and sisters of this land. We have not understood that if we don't live in harmony we die as fools. We have created a culture to interpret normal day to day happenings with ethno-religious eyes. We are called to critically look at this situation through the political and extremist view points that are present in our modern day society. We are also called to reassess how we as cultured human beings can turn into violent racially motivated negative forces who are emotional beyond reason and who immediately get provoked without actually going through the facts and reasoning.

In this present context how can we improve harmony and understanding between various ethnicities and religions in Sri Lanka? To improve the situation it is the need of the hour to get political leaders, religious leaders and other various leaders in the society to emphasize the importance of solidarity in our communities. In the past few days we have heard from many of them asking people to tolerate and control the situation. However this need to reach all parts of our communities. Especially the sections who are vulnerable to provocations and angered responses. The security forces also play a major role in keeping the peace and making sense of the conflict oriented situation at hand. 

There are many people who say that we don't have ethnic or religious issues in Sri Lanka. Is this true? Yes, generally we live together by tolerating each other who belong to various ethnicities and religions. At times even we compromise issues to live together. Occasionally we synchronize to exist together in the same community. But today we need to promote solidarity to make our environment safe for all of us to live in our motherland. 

Therefore let's commit ourselves to improve our relationships between religions and ethnicities to sustain peace and harmony in Sri Lanka. 

Rt.Rev.Keerthisiri Fernando
Bishop of Kurunagala,
Church of Ceylon,
Sri Lanka

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