Car­di­nal Ran­jith’s voice of san­ity

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURE/OPINION - BY DI­NESH WEER­AKKODY (Di­nesh Weer­akkody is a thought leader)

Angli­can Bishop of Colombo, Rt Revd Dhilo­raj Cana­gasabey speak­ing at a me­dia brief­ing said politi­cians are ru­in­ing Sri Lanka. Rt Revd Cana­gasabey called on re­li­gious lead­ers, civil so­ci­ety and all cit­i­zens who truly love Sri Lanka to unite and for­mu­late poli­cies and mo­bilise the peo­ple to re­build Sri Lanka. He called on Sri Lanka to unite to build a peace­ful new nation from the suc­ces­sion of tragedies faced by the coun­try.

Mean­while, His Emi­nence Malcolm Car­di­nal Ran­jith emerged in no time as an as­tute re­li­gious leader. In a strik­ing departure from the gen­er­ally con­ser­va­tive na­ture of the Catholic Church, he did not hes­i­tate to crit­i­cize the lead­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers for the car­nage.

He demon­strated com­pas­sion and hu­mil­ity for all peo­ple across re­li­gious and ethnic di­vides, while ex­trem­ist el­e­ments were busy driv­ing fear psy­chosis across all com­mu­ni­ties. State­ments by Malcolm Car­di­nal Ran­jith di­rectly con­trib­uted to unify all re­li­gions even in­clud­ing non­be­liev­ers.

He also coura­geously con­fronted the ex­trem­ist el­e­ments. Through­out these two weeks, the Car­di­nal re­vealed and dis­played his will­ing­ness to stir up the sta­tus quo, em­pha­sise God’s mercy, concern for the poor and com­mit­ment to in­ter-faith di­a­logue.

States­man­ship

The Car­di­nal stead­fastly ap­pealed to all Sri Lankans not to de­monise all Muslims for the sins of a few ex­trem­ists. He said the Mus­lim com­mu­nity must be treated with respect and un­der­stand­ing. He told the Mus­lim lead­ers to open them­selves to di­a­logue and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion thereby al­ter­ing the minds of so many peo­ple to re­main calm.

Car­di­nal Ran­jith is a sea­soned diplo­mat hav­ing served as the Apos­tolic Nun­cio to In­done­sia. The largest Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in a coun­try is in In­done­sia, a nation home to 12.7 per­cent of the world’s Muslims. Malcolm Car­di­nal Ran­jith’s and the Catholic clergy’s abil­ity to lead the Chris­tian com­mu­nity at this very cru­cial time saved the day for Sri Lanka.

The Car­di­nal spoke clearly, firmly and with­out fear. Catholics were told that reprisals would not be tol­er­ated. Tightly bonded, dis­ci­plined and God fear­ing, they lis­tened and did what a Chris­tian is ex­pected to do. The coun­try of about 70 per­cent Bud­dhists also lis­tened to his mes­sage. They were as­ton­ished, amazed and in­spired by this ma­tured re­sponse.

To the Muslims, Car­di­nal Ran­jith and his clergy were their saviour. They will be for­ever in­debted to him. Also for the in­con­solable, grief-stricken Catholics his words of san­ity forced them to trust in prayer. The Car­di­nal en­gaged with the gov­ern­ment openly while keep­ing his iden­tity clear and in­de­pen­dent.

When the gov­ern­ment sounded dis­tant and dis­pas­sion­ate, he crit­i­cized them. He said pub­licly that he is not sat­is­fied with how se­cu­rity was be­ing handled by this gov­ern­ment. Af­ter one day, he even re­fused to ride in the bul­let­proof ve­hi­cle given by the gov­ern­ment, say­ing the Shep­herd would pro­tect him.

Me­dia re­spon­si­bil­ity

The im­me­di­ate fu­ture for Sri Lanka is no doubt packed with un­cer­tainty. The me­dia must un­der­stand this and not spread neg­a­tiv­ity be­cause they con­trol the minds of the masses. Un­for­tu­nately, me­dia some­times do not abide by moral stan­dards, which in turn send mixed mes­sages to our so­ci­ety and these mes­sages are de­mor­al­iz­ing, de­sen­si­tiz­ing and false.

Per­haps this is why Angli­can Bishop Rt Revd Dhilo­raj Cana­gasabey ap­pealed to the me­dia to be aware of the enor­mous power they have, say­ing they can ei­ther make this coun­try or kill it with their pen.

“Please be re­strained and pru­dent in your re­port­ing,” he said.

The pub­lic loathing for all politi­cians has been re­in­forced. The politi­cians must know where the buck stops. This tragic calamity will not be for­got­ten for years. We have a solid his­tory of sup­port­ing grass­roots ef­forts to cre­ate safe com­mu­ni­ties through so­ci­etal change.

Car­di­nal Ran­jith has em­barked on a new ten­ure char­ac­terised by hu­mil­ity and out­spo­ken sup­port of the af­fected peo­ple and he needs to be involved ac­tively from now on, stay­ing clear from politics, to help those ca­pa­ble of ris­ing above them­selves, choos­ing again what is good and mak­ing a new start. His ef­fort should not only be directed ex­clu­sively to Ro­man Catholics but to everyone, who would spark oth­ers to fol­low suit.

The con­duct of Car­di­nal Ran­jith and the clergy dur­ing the Easter Sun­day tragedy and its af­ter­math avoided fur­ther vi­o­lence in the coun­try

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