The Bishop of Kurunagala, Keerthisiri Fernando, reflects on the Easter Day massacre of Christians in Sri Lanka.
In the context of the Easter Disaster in Sri Lanka, it has become decisive to have a sound understanding of the ethno-religious identities, in order to promote peace and harmony in this relatively small island in the Indian Ocean. Generally speaking, the Sri Lankan society is comprised of four main world religions – Buddhist, Hindu, Christian & Islam; and four ethnic categories – Sinhala, Tamil, “Muslim” & Eurasian [Burgher] which have been creating and recreating identities in all part of this country.
Therefore to have a comprehensive understanding of Sri Lanka it is necessary to have a critical analysis of these identities prevailing in the Sri Lankan society.
Majority Sinhala ethnicity (about 72 per cent) has given the foundation for Buddhist religious identity. On the other hand Buddhism has given the strength to develop and sustain the Sinhala ethnic identity. With the political independence from the British Empire in 1948 this majority ethno-religious identity has been dominating all the socio-cultural and political affairs of Sri Lanka.
At times this majority identity has been intruding into other minority identities creating fear psychosis among these communities. These intrusions have forced the minorities to strengthen their identities in various ways to exist as effective entities in the societies of different part of Island. Here the fact that these ethnic and religious minorities share their identities with rest of the world has become critical in strengthening their respective identities.
Christians (about seven per cent) who ethnically belong to Sinhala, Tamil and Eurasian categories have been strengthening their identities with respective denominations that they belong to throughout the world. This has been facilitated by their knowledge of the international language English and their relationships with the international world.
Religiously Hindu and ethnically Tamils have extensive links with the international world. This is cemented with the Sri Lankan Tamil immigrant communities in various parts of the world who migrated to those countries in the context of the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Where Sri Lankan Muslims are concerned the fact that in the identity of Islam, ethnicity and religion are intertwined has been playing a vital role. Because of this reality unlike other religions and ethnicities with their ethno-religious identities in Islamic identity Sri Lankanisation has been minimum. This has created space for many believers of Islamic faith to get isolated in the Sri Lankan society.
Now it is very clear that this isolation has been enabling international radical Islamic groups to influence tiny minority of Sri Lankan Muslims even to the extent of training suicide bombers.
In this particular background it is necessary for other Sri Lankans to integrate into Muslim communities to promote peace & harmony with a sound understanding. It is the responsibility of Sri Lankan Muslims to take every step to Sri Lankanise their activities while retaining their Islamic identity.