OMNIA has written an open letter to the Leaders of Religious and Spiritual Traditions in Sri Lanka as they work together to seek a peaceful and rational solution. We are asking you to review the letter below and add your signature to stand in support of a peaceful and faithful solution to this crisis.
To: All the leaders of all religious and spiritual traditions of Sri Lanka
Cc: The President, Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers of the government of Sri Lanka, civic and community leaders, media organizations.
Honorable and esteemed colleagues,
Greetings of peace!
We, leaders of the global religious community and people of faith, write seeking ways to stand in solidarity with you in the context of the current interreligious tensions in Sri Lanka.
We appreciate the launching of the “Diyawanna Declaration on Religious and Communal Harmony” in Sri Lanka, on 26 April, 2019, which recommends “Inter-faith dialogue with relevant specialists to be regularly carried out at the urban and rural grassroots levels to voluntarily resolve differences.”
Although you experienced it most closely, we too were shaken by the devastating attacks on Easter Sunday. Our hearts go out to each person and family affected by the bombings of churches and hotels, to the specific churches that were bombed, and to the entire Christian community in Sri Lanka.
We are deeply troubled by the escalation of hateful rhetoric and the spreading of rumors against Muslim communities across the island that lead to the attacks on Muslim persons, the boycotting of Muslim businesses and creating an environment of fear and uncertainty.
We are aware of the historical roots of such conflicts, in particular, the devastating effects of four and half centuries long colonialism and its continuing after-effects. We, ourselves are working to address such injustices in our own contexts.
Nevertheless, we are at a loss to understand how some Buddhist monks could use hate speech and incite mobs to violence. We wish to declare that in the dhamma that the Lord Buddha taught, there is no place for hate, hate-speech and violence. In fact, the opening chapter of the Dhammapada states: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.”
We are also concerned that the government has thus far not been able to prosecute or hold to account those who incite violence, despite laws that prohibit hate speech, and that even in the midst of violent incidents, it is reported that the police have often been inactive observers without intervening to prevent escalation of the conflict.
Therefore, as global religious leaders we pledge to do the following:
· Demand that the government take steps to protect all vulnerable communities; that all hate speech, incitement, and hateful actions immediately cease; and that swift, meaningful legal action be brought against all those who engage in hate speech and violence.
· Encourage urban and rural grassroots level interreligious dialogue and peacemaking, with open and honest conversations of the issues that cause conflicts and to address them together.
· Bring a representative group of religious leaders to Sri Lanka to listen to, learn from and to stand in deep solidarity with you, leaders of the religious and spiritual traditions of Sri Lanka at this difficult time.
With our very best wishes for peace!
Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana
President, OMNIA Institute for Contextual Leadership
Other signatories include:
1. Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Executive Director Emeritus, Parliament of the World’s Religions (Chicago, Illnois, USA)
2. Imam Malik Mujahid, Executive Director, Sound Vision (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
3. Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President, National Council of Churches of Christ (Washington, DC, USA)
4. Dr. Mohamad Elsanousi, Executive Director, Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (Washington DC, USA)
5. Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, Professor Emeritus, Drew University (Geneva, Switzerland).