Archbishop’s partisan political commentary | Sunday Observer

Archbishop’s partisan political commentary

His eminence the Archbishop of Colombo made a number of political statements on Sunday July 21, at the reopening of St. Sebastian Church, Katuwapitiya three months after the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

He berated the negligence of the government, which willfully ignored warnings from external intelligence agencies and those from within the Muslim community. If heeded, these may have prevented the bombings and the loss of lives. These facts are well-known and his eminence’s exasperation at the negligence of the government is understandable. His condemnation is deserved. His statement absolving the Muslim community as a whole of responsibility for the attacks, rightly pinning the blame on a few misled extremists is also welcomed.

However, repeating the conspiracy theories being peddled by opposition parties and blaming the attacks on a foreign agency were disingenuous. Echoing the claim by opposition politicians that the bombing took place due to weakening of the intelligence services at the behest of ‘international partners’ and ‘international NGOs’ seemed to lend support to the contention that military services should be above the law.

The government has indeed apprehended some intelligence officers – those who were wanted for human rights abuses. The claim that this has weakened the intelligence services has been put about by those who seek impunity for such crimes. There is little evidence to support this assertion and the Cardinal’s unfortunate remarks seem to devalue the importance of both the value of such rights and the due process of law. His misplaced attack on the UN, which he accused of being interested only in the welfare of the dozens of suspects arrested in connection with the bombings and not the plight of the survivors, was in a similar vein. UNHCR which has been working to promote accountability and reconciliation following the armed conflict in Sri Lanka is a bugbear for the nationalists in Sri Lanka and His Eminence’s remarks have received due approval from such quarters. Whether this reflects the value of the church or the Catholic community is more questionable.

Every citizen has a right to speak his or her mind and the Church should not hesitate, as an organ of civil society to pronounce on matters of national importance. However these messages should be informed by the teachings of the Church on mercy, compassion, love and justice.

His eminence would have done well to dwell on the hatred that has been heaped on the hapless Muslim community, some emanating from within his own flock and his priests.

He could have spoken more of the victims of the bombings and how they could be supported in rebuilding their lives.

He could have dwelt on the polarization of society and the troubling questions of bridging the widening divisions between communities. New questions of reconciliation have arisen even before the older ones have been resolved. The reopening of the Katuwapitiya Church presented an opportunity for the Church and a man of God to spread an important message of reconciliation and healing. It is a pity His Eminence chose instead to issue a highly coloured and partisan political commentary.