Friday, May 26, 2006

Partners In Crime

The President's decision to ban 'Da Vinci Code' shows that when we thought the Three Kings (Mahinda, Ghotabhaya and Basil) were ruling this country, we were wrong. There can be little doubt that it was the President's wife Shiranthi Rajapakse, a devout Catholic, who made up his mind for him. So now it's Three Kings + a Queen.

However, the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka did ask the President to ban the movie. It's sad that they don't understand the full extent of the damage they have caused to the personal freedoms of the people of this country.

Let us look at this banning in the present context, where the Sarth Silva, Somarathna Balasuriya, Kusala Sarojini and a handful of others are trying to ban Ashoka Handagama's film 'Aksharaya'. So far, the mad monks of the JHU have not jumped on the anti-Aksharaya bandwagon. They have been secretly cheering the attempts to ban the movie, but they have not directly spoke about it yet.

By banning 'Da Vinci Code', the president has sent a clear message to other religious groups that the movies that they want banned, will also be banned. By giving into a little bit of pressure from the catholic Church, (and a lot of pressure from his wife) the President has set a very scary precedent. Now, if the JHU or even three random monks say they want 'Aksharaya' banned, then it will be banned by the President, and there will be no way to challenge that decision.

By playing right into the hands of the President, the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has made themselves partners in the present Government's efforts to curtail personal freedoms, particularly the freedom of expression. But then, the Catholic Church has never had any problems supporting and financing oppressive, dictatorial Governments.

With Shiranthi as their live-in representative to the President the Catholic Church now has a way to save it's own bacon. But do they worry about the other children of their god? Me thinks not. When Sinhala nationalist, Buddhist extremist groups attack fringe Christian groups and missionaries the Catholic Church stays silent. Why? Because it serves their purpose. The fringe groups attempt to bring under their wing Catholics disgusted with the present Church in addition to new converts. In fact when attacks on the Churches of fringe groups started the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka did not even bother to issue a condemnation, stating instead that if these fringe maniacs are trying to convert people, they deserve what they're getting.

But I digress...

And before I end, if the Prsident decides what we watch and don't watch, then why do we have a Public Performances Board which normally hands out the 'ok' certificates? Does the President watch all the movies that are shown in this country? Should he waste his time this way?

That is just sad .. as a Catholic, I won't be going anywhere near the Da Vinci Code, but no one who wants to see it should be stopped from doing so
Christian evangelists are on a roll in Sri Lanka. During the past few decades many reactionary Christian organisations originating in the west have swept into Sri Lanka with the single aim of converting all non-Christians to Christianity. Having arrived in a "third world" country, their reasoning is that all niceties and norms of decency can be dispensed with; evangelism is carried out through whatever means necessary without any thought for the consequence, even if this means creating a religious conflict. Sri Lanka must be on high guard if she is to preserve her religious harmony, for looking around the world it can be seen that religious conflict has not been far behind wherever Christian evangelists have set up shop.

Moderate Christians in the country have opposed the acts of the minority Christian fundamentalists, but this opposition has been much too soft and has been relegated to a few personalities. If the articles in various national papers are anything to go by, more often than not we come across members of the mainstream churches supporting and encouraging the evangelists and their insidious activities. By throwing their weight behind the Christian fundamentalists, moderate Christians are only doing what the fundamentalists want them to do: join in the offensive against other religions. Such an outcome does not bode well for the future of this country, and a deep reflection on the issue ought to be undertaken by moderate Christians siding with (or leaning towards) the evangelists.

It is true that we have heard some sections of the Church condemn the insensitive and indecent activities of the evangelists, but nothing has been done to reign in those who continue with these provocative activities. No concrete steps have been taken to stop abusing the poverty and destitution of a war-scarred population in order convert them, and no concrete steps have been taken to stop once and for all the iconoclastic practice of smashing Buddhist and Hindu statues to signify total conversion to Christianity. We are left to believe that the public condemnation is merely a ploy to appear moderate and tolerant, and that the Church continues to support such activities in secret. But surely this cannot be true? For if it were, we have the makings of a religious imbroglio that could overshadow the current national conflict itself.

It is unfortunate but true that the history of the Church in this island has not been one that it can be proud of. If truth be told, the mainstream churches, hand in hand with the colonials, engaged in vicious forms of evangelism, trying to convert all the non-Christian natives to Christianity and bring them to the "civilization" that the Europeans supposedly first brought to this country inhabited by brown-skinned "pagans." The Church played a leading role in trying to wean away the natives from their culture and national religion - Buddhism or Hinduism, and used whatever means at their disposal to carry out this task. They shamelessly paid new converts to go around villages degrading Buddhism and they had no qualms about providing education through their schools if only the Buddhist and Hindu children would convert to Christianity. Churches were built on the desecrated remains of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and for a long time the inveterate enemies of the Church remained the two religions of Buddhism and Hinduism which were adhered to by the vast majority of Sri Lankans. So it is with much concern today that the people of this country regard the lack of action taken by the Church to arrest the activities of the evangelists. Is the Church falling back into its past history of openly attacking and trying to annihilate other religions? Is this the case in this "age of enlightenment", and if so, how can such an openly hostile attitude towards other religions be conducive towards religious harmony?

The established churches in Sri Lanka must be wary of providing support to the evangelists who are conducting an ideological war against against non-Christian religions. By providing overt or covert support to the activities of the evangelists, the mainstream churches are only inviting the displeasure of the vast majority of Sri Lankans who do not look kindly upon the provocative methods of proselytism employed by the Christian fundamentalists. Many in this country are quite plainly fed up with the crusade of conversion that is being spearheaded by the evangelists, and want the hate campaign against non-Christian religions to end. If the Church were responsible and tolerant of other faiths, it ought to take into account the thoughts and feelings of the Sri Lankan people, instead of continuously ignoring them in order to satisfy the rather fanciful and intolerant dream of Christianizing not only Sri Lanka, but the entire world.

Christian fundamentalists have sown the seeds of religious discord in this country, and the fruit of their actions can only be disastrous. It is in the interests of the Sri Lankan nation to take immediate steps to neutralize the war waged by the Christian evangelists against non-Christian religions, and to reinstall and reinforce a climate of religious tolerance and understanding. Moderate Christians must understand that the religious harmony that was prevalent in Sri Lanka has been breached solely by the irresponsible activities of the evangelists, who care naught for the welfare of Sri Lanka, and who would do anything in their power to "harvest souls" for their God. By ignoring the principles of tolerance, love, compassion and understanding that are enunciated in the Bible, the evangelists are going against the teachings of Jesus Christ, and are trampling on accepted norms of decency. No good can come of it, and Sri Lanka should not have to undergo the trauma the Christian fundamentalists are thrusting upon her.

United together, Sri Lanka can shake off the unpleasant activities and attitudes of the Christian fundamentalists and move towards greater understanding and co-existence. By doing so, the country can stave off a possible religious war, and maintain its proud tradition of religious harmony. But as long as the Christian evangelists continue with their ideological war against non-Christian religions, and as long as some mainstream Christians support and aid the intolerant activities of the evangelists, an end to religious rivalry and hostility will not be seen. The vast majority of Sri Lankans comprising Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, moderate Christians, free thinkers and atheists will not be happy over such a situation. They want the religious fanaticism of the Christian evangelists to end as soon as possible - before it creates debilitating religious rifts among society.

Opposing religious fundamentalism will be of benefit to Sri Lanka both now and for the future. To ignore evangelism today will likely lead to more hostile religious conflicts later on. This is something that Sri Lanka can ill afford after more than 20 years of national conflict. United together as Sri Lankans who appreciate religious harmony and co-existence, the intolerant worldview of the evangelists and their machinations can and should be defeated. The voice of the tolerant majority must be heard.

Towards Religious Harmony
By Harendra De Silva
Oi - can I just say ... as one of those many mixed up Catholic/Brahmins ... oops sorry they're all dead, they got killed via both sides of violence and hatres a long, long, long time ago ... in our dear, dear land of Serendip....

Morq.... you leave mahinda, buffalo's wife alone... she would worship at any alter :-) and .... she's pretty and knows how to make an entrance...

which leads me onto the next most important thing in the universe which is ... can Miss Sri Lanka win the next Miss World contest coz she is very, very Sri Lankan looking and .. .well damint PRETTY....

As for the Da Vinci code ... yawn... groan .. snore.... they are trying to get people to watch it at the movies - coz that's where they make the most dosh... don't belive the hype... it is irelevant if it's banned in S/L because on a global scale ... dudes ... S/L choose to kill it's own citizens every single day ... and S/L is irelevant.
the problem with the code is that it mixes fact with fiction. distorting, misleading many people...thank god for the presidents move. i know he will be honoured by HIm in this world or the next....
Hello - it's the real ashanthi here... i did not write the above comment

s/nut .. can you please give me some tips on how to deal with spoofs...

i think i'm perpetually being punished for originally being an anon.. . i don't know it's just really foul.

i have a strong personality and when spoofs come along and try and immitate me - it's just ^%&*^%%&%

anyway ... watch out this will continue for a while no doubt..
That was a pretty good impersonation Ashanthi... s/he actually wrote like you do!;) No offence intended.
Why was the film the ‘Da Vinci Code’ banned? Whose idea was it? The book is freely available and has been for some time and now the film based on the book is banned!

This decision does not do the Church or Christianity any good. Not even the US, which commences all State occasions with a prayer, and have the motto “In God we trust” has thought it necessary to ban the film and here is Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, the film is banned.

In this day and age of a scientific revolution it is in the interest of Christianity itself to debunk the myths and separate facts from fiction. In the West, many thinkers have exposed myths of centuries; for example the claim to Immaculate Conception was questioned for centuries in the West and our own Fr. Tissa Balasuriya was almost de-frocked and excommunicated for writing about it. The claim of a creator God who created the World in seven days and Adam and Eve have proved too much of an embarrassment and is now never mentioned as it has been scientifically proved that the earth itself is millions of years old and the universe even older. Many other such spurious claims which have been debunked have now been set aside.

The Catholic Church in particular has, over the centuries, had a problem with countering myths. The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution caused havoc in the Church. It should not be forgotten that the Church had Bruno burned at the stake but his compatriot Corpenicus, who was very much a part of the Church, escaped that fate for the fact that his writings which contradicted the Bible were only ‘discovered’ after his death.

Corpernicus posed a fundamental threat to the entire Christian framework of cosmology, theology and morality. The great cosmological structure, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory were blown to smithereens by Astronomy. Next came Galileo and his telescope and his theory of the earth revolving round the sun. Then it could no longer be the fixed centre of God’s creation. It was Galileo who discovered the craters on the moon and the sun spots, and this was in 1609! The eyes of Galileo were de-gorged and the church banned teachings and writings upholding the motion of the earth. The history of the Christian religion is the history of suppression of scientific findings.

The march of reason and the modern mind has created a huge crisis for the Church. Churches in Europe are empty that priests have to be brought from Africa and nuns from Asia. It is indeed time for another Reformation. The teachings of Jesus could be of huge benefit to man, but they must be shorn of myths and superstitions and the religion should not be based on blind faith, which is a weak base in this day and age of scientific inquiry.

If Dan Brown has de-coded what one of the greatest men of all time ( Da Vinci was undoubtedly the most gifted and multi-talented, versatile human being who has lived on this planet) has painted, and if he is indeed right, so what of it? Jesus was only human. It would have been natural for him to have warmed up to a woman and had a child. That does not, in any manner, diminish the value of his teachings. It only adds value.

I am myself a person who follows his teachings and I seek to practise his teachings. Banning the film will not stop people from reading the book which has sold more copies than any other, except the Bible.The Catholic Church and the Protestants closed ranks against the march of science for many centuries but they could not stop the inquiring mind which is on a voyage of discovery. The local Catholic and Protestant Churches have also closed ranks to have a film which is being shown in the Christian West, including Italy, the US, Germany and the UK, banned in this country. The teachings of Jesus can survive without myths and mumbo-jumbo.

Please Bishops, this is the 21st Century that we are living in, not the middle ages. You are violating my right to see the film. What rights have you to do that? Is it not your own sense of insecurity and inability to face the march of reason that makes you inflict this violation on us?

- Jude Nirmal Pereira
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