Photo Credit: Diocese of Colombo
The senior bishop of the Church of Ceylon, the Bishop of Colombo, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has urged Sri Lankans to unite and appreciate religious and ethnic diversity. Speaking to reporters, Bishop Dhiloraj issued a “humble and earnest” appeal “to the intelligentsia of this country, to all religious leaders, civil society, youth leaders and all our citizens who truly love this land, to come together to overcome all . . . ethnic, religious and ideological divisions and to formulate policies and to mobilise the people to rebuild our dear, shattered motherland.”
He said: “for too long have we watched from the side-lines while politicians have wrecked and ruined this beautiful and pleasant country. Let us unite sincerely to work towards building a tolerant, just and a peaceful new nation from the succession of tragedies that have befallen us.”
He said that the task of unifying the country must start with the education of children. “It is so essential that they are taught from their young days about the diverse and rich traditions of the many people who make up this nation and make it so beautiful”, he said, “that they are taught to understand each other and of the need to accept, appreciate, live and work in harmony with all, for the shared common good of all.”
And he also issued urged an end to the demonisation of the country’s Muslim community following the Easter Day massacre in which 257 people were killed when Islamist terrorists attacked churches and hotels in the country. He described Sri Lankan Muslims as “our fellow citizens” who had “lived with us in this country for many hundreds of years.”
Bishop Dhiloraj added: “I appeal to the authorities, the politicians, the media, and all our people: for goodness sake, please do not demonise the entire Muslim community for the sins of a few warped minds. While the full force of the law must be applied on all those who planned, aided and carried out this unbelievable act of terror, the Muslim community must be treated with respect and understanding.
“This is how mature, generous and hospitable people like ours must react.
“As a Tamil, having gone through the period of war when there was a tendency to look upon every Tamil as a potential terrorist, I empathise with the traumatised Muslim community living with fear and living in shame.”
During his press conference, he also spoke of the “enormous power” of the media, saying: “Friends, you can make this country or you can kill this country with your pen. Please be restrained and prudent with your reporting; be conscious that you also have a huge task of educating, highlighting and encouraging all these factors that unite us rather than focusing on those that separate and divide us.”
The Church of Ceylon’s two dioceses, Colombo and Kurunegala, are currently an extra-provincial area of the Anglican Communion under the metropolitical oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Last month, the Anglican Consultative Council’s Standing Committee agreed moves which could see the Church become an independent province of the Anglican Communion.