Terror stalks the Pearl | Sunday Observer

Terror stalks the Pearl

Easter, the greatest and the most solemn of all Christian festivals was sadly marred this year, by a chilling terrorist attack the like of which had never been seen before. It was second only to the multiple terror unleashed during the thirty-year ethnic war which besieged the country but ended 10 years ago. One would have dreamed of an end to terror with that war victory, but much to our regret and dismay, the demon had sneaked in again to the isle of serendipity.

It was indeed a catastrophe, a tragedy of untold magnitude snatching a way the lives of nearly 300 and inflicting serious injuries to over 500.

This was all incredibly just a day’s havoc perpetrated by some radical Islamic group ideologically vowed to violence and destruction in the name of God, condemning all non-Muslims as pagans meant for annihilation.

The blood bath of these innocents and the heaving shrills of the injured shocked the nation, rendering it speechless and bewildered. Who would have imagined such a carnage on the day of a religious festival? Two Catholic churches saw heaps of charred bodies of men, women and children strewn on the floor with blood spattering the statues and the walls.

A minute ago, a congregation in devout worship, now turned into a bloody mess. The scene was identical in another Christian church.

Terror also struck some tourists who had come in the hope of spending their vacation in fun and frolic in the Pearl of the Indian ocean wrecking them by families.

It was horror at its worst, murder most foul! They indeed were crude and cruel days when human flesh was cheap: deep were the wounds and red was the blood of those who were struck by the bombs.

Terror and violence, hatred and spite have no place in a hallowed land such as Sri Lanka which is an oasis of four of the greatest living religions of the world: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

They are all religions of peace matched with a spirituality that empowers their devotees to foster loving kindness and compassion towards all human beings and nature, propelling them to live and work with mutual respect and solidarity with every one. Only the travesty of such noble ideals in the forms of extremism could turn out to be dangerously injurious ideologies. Christianity invites people to live loving God and for that sake loving the neighbour as well. It has preserved for millennia the Decalogue of the ten commandments that God had given to them.

They regard peace as a fourth-century luminary St. Augustine had taught, to be the tranquility of order which posits everyone and everything in their proper and due place. Anything disrupting this social order leads to conflicts.

Buddhism teaches the path to inner discipline, a type of mental culture that leads to a clear vision and assisting a devotee to walk the path of a disciplined one with ethic of mind, body, speech and social obligations.

In the hand-book of its spirituality, the Dhammapada, it is stated: “Hatred is, indeed, never appeased by hatred in this world. It is appeased only by loving-kindness. This is an ancient law”. (Verse 5). Hinduism sees divine presence and action which is ubiquitous. In fact, there is the cosmic dance of Lord Nadarajah in the smooth movement of the planets and of course in the consciousness of man.

One of the most modern luminaries who acted out of his Hindu faith was Mahatmā Gandhi, who single-handed fought the hegemony and imperialism of an entire British Empire and won freedom for the millions of his people in India through the national movement of non-violence or Ahimsa. It is today a very relevant and powerful ideology even for a sound ethics of national or even international politics.

Then comes Islam which in itself means peace (shalom). It militates and is diametrically opposed to any form of violence, hatred and the spirit of divisiveness/dissension. The jihād that the Qur’an advocates refers to the inner war-fare that one has to wage in one’s life so that the heart remains pure, just and peaceful.

The enemy actually therefore is within every man. Jihād in its deeper and most profound sense means struggling to live a righteous life according to the will of God (Inns-Allah) and the revelation given to his prophet Mohammad.

The Qur’an never ever intends violence except towards self-violence for righteous living. It never encourages physical violence against non-Muslims; certainly not killing in the name of God which is a travesty of Qur’anic teaching.

Islam teaches tolerance, restraint and conciliation. Nowhere in the Qur’an can there be found support for indiscriminate slaughter, the killing of non-combatants or murder of innocent persons in ‘payback’ for another people’s alleged crimes. Further, not one sura advocates any suicide-bombing to kill anyone in the name of Allah.

There seems to be a controversy about the slaying of idolators (non-Muslims) in Sura 9:5 in contrast with the teaching on pacific and religious tolerance message given in Sura 2.256. Besides critical scholars point to the contrast between the Peace verses and those that advocate violence and war against non-Muslims identified as infidels.

But the question can be probed as to who these infidels are: they are actually worshippers of objects of nature which run counter to the worship of the one and true God, those who broke agreements entered into with the Muslim authorities. The Qu’ran does not advocate religious war against any religion.

The recent Easter suicide-attacks on worshippers in churches and tourists in hotels is being blamed on the misguided Muslim youth who were wrongly motivated and doctrinally dangerously indoctrinated or the Government authorities who blissfully disregarded information present about the impending disasters.

Professing ignorance on these matters as serious as national security and safety of the people is an unforgivable breach of trust in those whom the hoi polloi have sent to occupy the seats of power in the land. Being connected with violent terror attacks, had these rumours been given serious attention, this tragedy could have easily been avoided and hundreds of innocent lives saved. Inattentiveness to intelligence is always a risk that invites danger and catastrophe. Terrorism may be a global phenomenon, but it operates locally in a manner that is treacherous and despicable.

No religion ever preaches murder and assassination and all other forms of killing that you can possibly imagine in the name of religion and certainly not in the name of God. No human hand can be raised in virulent attack against human life, for it is a gift from God who is the author of life.

“Thou shall not kill” and “Pānāthipāthā vēramani sikkhā padam samādiyāmī” which formulate a perennial ethic and moral behavior vis-à-vis respect to life, say it all in simple, straight-forward and uncompromising language.

Any religion that appropriated to itself the power to kill is a travesty of religion and a contradiction in terms.

The Easter incidents should alert us to this challenge in respect of human rights and religious teaching. We must opt for a culture of life over one of death, for a civilisation of love over one of hate.

Sri Lanka has known the violence of her invaders both in the pre-colonial and the colonial period in events such as the ethnic riots of the late fifties, the youth insurrection of the early seventies, the black July of mid-eighties and the repeated rebellion of the late eighties, the thirty-year ethnic war and now the sad events of Easter 2019.

There have been assassinations of prime-ministers, promising national leaders and threats to the life of those in seats of responsibility and national defence. It is important that the nation should not lose the sense of seriousness connected with these national disasters and destructive moral and ethical lapses.

In the present day forms of war and violence there are no winners but all those embattled become losers. It is a loose-loose social dynamic. It is far better to put a stop to causes from which such violence, hatred and strife emerge in a manner that is preventive on short and long-term.

Now, that violence has once again stalked this land of peace and beauty, it is incumbent on all the citizens, whatever their religion, ethnicity, race, class or language or political persuasion, to have the same mind and heart as Sri Lankans, and salvage this dear Motherland making it a safe oasis and a happy home for each and every citizen.

Dialogue between the religions of this land with an effort to understand their teachings rightly, common action-plans carried out by their religious leaders and the fostering of conviviality among all classes of peoples will facilitate to a great extent beyond mere politics and security-intelligence, in achieving a common national identity.

Perhaps, a political leadership that is honest and sincere in the interest of the common good buttressed by the irreplaceable contribution of religious leaders will ensure this dream becoming a reality and a felt-blessing.