August 23, 2019
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    TERRORISM ROOTED IN MISGUIDED RELIGIOUS BELIEF

    May 27, 2019

    Institutions of religious denominations instruct their adherents to live and act according to the teachings of their religions. Religious authorities and all teachers of religion should interpret and explain the teachings of their religious founders to the people. Even those without a religion strive to be consistent with and try to be faithful to their convictions and stance.

    Adherents of religions regard their ‘founder’ as a very authoritative model to follow. Other religious founders are respected according to the nobility and integrity of their life. Some of their teachings are accepted, their guidance on many aspects of life is valued and appreciated according to the truth of what they have said.

    The suicide bombers who caused a great calamity in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday were acting according to the distorted religious education given to them.

    Just days ago, the Mayor of Dablo, Burkina Faso told the news agency AFP that armed men burst into the Catholic Church and wanted the Christians to convert to Islam and they refused. They started firing and killed six people including a priest. They set fire to the Church. The congregation fled. They set fire to nearby shops and a health centre, government officials told the BBC.

    The unacceptable understanding given by special instructors to the Sri Lanka’s suicide bombers had so radicalized them that they have been abnormalized into genocidal maniacs.

    Peaceful Muslims follow the Qur’an. 99.99 of Muslims do not accept the fanatical ways of acting of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL and IS who call themselves Muslims and wish to convert the whole world to Islam. The intelligence apparatus is unaware that this trend crept to Sri Lanka more than thirty years ago.

    There is in human beings a natural hesitancy towards deep hate and injurious violence. This is reinforced by the guidance given by bimillennial religious traditions buttressed also by the noble Buddha who strengthens this attitude when he says that those who resort to violence do not follow the dharma. It is those who lead others through nonviolent means, knowing right and wrong who are guardians of the dharma. Those who live in truth, goodness, restraint, non-violence, moderation and purity are true leaders.

    Buddhism is lit up by non-violence which recognizes that all living beings have a spark of the divine and therefore to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. There are Buddhists who have rejected taking up any arms even while knowing that they may be killed as a result. Buddhists too can defend themselves without resorting to killing anyone. But Buddhists cannot resort to oppressive violence.

    Jesus Christ tells his followers to become “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” and not to be a mere self-preserving exclusive group. The goodness of salt is in its saltiness that should permeate the food to restore its taste. Too much salt makes insipid what is otherwise tasty and edible. Light dispels darkness. Light is needed to see and distinguish anything. Light of the mind is intelligence needed to gain proper understanding.

    MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS PROTECTED

    In the past when the Portuguese vied with Muslims over trade as they felt harassed and insecure, Buddhist kings provided them protection in Batticoloa. When the Dutch persecuted Catholics, the King of Kandy settled them in Wahakotte where Catholics still live because their forefathers kept the faith without the leadership of a priest. (In Japan, Catholics kept their faith and way of life for three hundred years without a Catholic priest!) Buddhists would be following their best traditions when they avoid all manner of violence and promote inter community harmony and understanding. But today the people are put in jeopardy by political instability and the public display of rivalry and disunity at the summit of power and the irresponsible Buddhist politicians of the government and the opposition insensitive to the needs of national solidarity and harmony.

    It is very saddening to note that some mobs led by monks have forced open the gates of hell to satisfy their confused hearts’ deposits of unsettled aggressive yearnings by venting feelings of hatred towards peaceful Muslims by destroying their mosques and business places, after the terrorist attacks of Easter Sunday. Is the intolerance and extremism against non-Buddhists seen in Myanmar to be imported to Sri Lanka to counter Muslim extremists?

    The close connection of uncivilized, abrasive, law-breaking thickheaded politicians’ evasion, irresponsibility, subterfuge, lies and violence being the order of the day, religion and race are taken for granted as handy tools to make instant political profits. How they connect religion to politically aligned violence and disorder needs to be discussed even though, today, most people rightly think that violence is incompatible with any religion. The veneer of superficial religion grafted to politics and warped by racial, cultural prejudice, lies and violence has done great injustice to people and soaked this country in so much slaughter. Bloodshed resulting from national disunity and devastation is a harvest of the badly educated and opportunistic politicians seeking cheap popularity.

    MISGUIDED TERRORISTS’ VIOLENCE

    Anyway, according to theistic religions, God cannot be related to violence. It is against God’s nature. Faith is an interior activity of the mind, the will and memory. Faith arises through understanding and belief of reliable witnesses who testify to the veracity of what they have experienced and come to know and have transmitted to others by oral narrative or written document. It is this faith that nurtures and motivates Christians’ way of social behaviour.

    Anyone could share one’s experience and faith with another and persuade him/her to embrace the belief of the proclaimer who speaks in a reasonable and convincing way. Violence may subjugate and conquer but does not persuade or convince anyone. Violence is contrary to the spirit of religion. All are free to change one’s views, to accept and change even religious belief. But it has to be absolutely free and voluntary. But brainwashed fanatics have been made to think that their religious belief justifies extremism, violence and terrorism for their weird ends.

    The Taliban, Al Qu’ida, IS of the Salafis, Salafi Jihadists, Wahhabis, are global terrorists who now do not pursue any victory in battlefields. They go after their politico-ideological objectives through intimidation, imposition of fear and terrorist attacks of the innocent. Miseducation makes them consider all other Muslims as apostates and other people as ‘infidels’. But if they and all the Muslims knew the shared beliefs regarding Jesus and Mary as stated in the Bible and the Qur’an, they would not become so aggressively anti-Christians. They would interpret Jihad as a spiritual struggle and not one of violence directed towards anyone. Such understanding would be compatible with the world of today. Only wise teachers could give a proper education and give life guidance by helping students towards right thinking.

    RELIGION AND REASON

    Generally, the human being bases his thoughts, words, judgements, actions on reason. Religious founders proclaimed their words and appealed to reason. When a religious founder was confronted with emotion filled argumentative opposition, he appealed to reason, explained things further to ‘shed more light’ and give a better understanding of what was originally stated.

    Theists conceive God as reasonable. However there is among some Muslims like the Taliban and IS, the view that Allah transcends even rationality and that God is not bound by reason. Here, Allah is understood to be absolutely transcendent, that is to say, ‘so absolutely free’ that he is not bound by human categories of thought of right and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust and love and hate. Some, akin to the fanatical extremists go to the extent of saying that Allah is not bound by his own word.

    Similarly, some Buddhist leaders with shady political inclinations here have even dared to say that advocating non-violence is a mistake that the Buddha had made! Even though the Buddha was one of the most prominent in human history to uphold the sublimity of human reasoning, there are many even among his followers who get emotionally worked up and act abandoning reason completely.

    FRIENDLY INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

    The recent unfortunate happenings should lead not only Christians and Muslims but all those who adhere to religions to engage in friendly and respectful interreligious dialogue in order to come to a better understanding of the beliefs of one another and to launch and establish better relations, human fraternity and national solidarity as we live in and share a pluralistic world. This would dispel suspicion and also help prevent terrorism from within and outside. Even though political leaders do not, the people and religious leaders should understand that brainwashed fanatical terrorists, by their mayhem in a few places, are threatening the all the people of Sri Lanka and the rest of the world.

    Responding to this situation, there is today in all the main religions a movement towards frank communication, fraternal sharing and social integration on the basis of the common humanity that we all share.

    This attitude not only eschews any kind of violence in any human community, it could lead to and promotes the elimination of all means of international violence beginning with nuclear armaments, weapons of mass destruction, bombs with poisonous gases and all armaments and ruinous means meant for engagement in war.

    There is also today among the main world religions more openness in interreligious dialogue and communication, a sincere search for better mutual understanding and social integration on a global scale and the conservation and preservation of the planet earth for the younger generation of today and the future generations yet to be born on earth, with the world population expected to spiral to over 11 billion by 2050. Intelligent understanding, formation of convictions in the mind coordinating with sentiments and refined feelings of the heart need to be well imbued in all human beings through quality integral education from their young days.

    TOWARDS A NEW WORLD ORDER

    The enormous resources, energies and personnel now set apart for projects of war by most countries could be diverted to projects of global human development and peaceful progress in a new world order. In this context, violence and terrorism originating from religious fanaticism becomes criminal and totally unacceptable. Honest international cooperation could eliminate it.

    Due to most acts of fanatical terrorism coming from those who claim to be the true interpreters of Islam, many countries in the world, including those with a majority of Muslims, are concerned about sudden and violent attacks of fanatical extremists.

    Sri Lanka cannot adjust the world to suit her requirements. Cognizant of this fact she could coordinate with the rest of the world to find a modus vivendi, a way of living upholding and promoting human dignity and equal rights of all people. She should not only actively cooperate and collaborate with the United Nations in general but also the countries that are prioritizing anti-terrorist programmes in particular. Political leaders should wake up from their self-indulgent partisan political slumber to positively contribute new thinking and initiatives to create a world of coexistential equilibrium within a new world order so that all may live in happiness and peace.

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