We have all collectively made it to the 21st Century, but we still suffer from the oldest scourges of humanity, the hate and divisiveness caused by the differences in our ideologies, our race and our religious beliefs that threaten our very lives.
On a global scale, as countries vie for dominance and power over each other, wars rage on, be they actual wars, or more lately, racial, religious, ideological, and even trade and commerce wars. But regardless of their nature, they foster division and animosity, rather than cooperation and harmony, and they definitely do not change the World for the better.
But there are also the internal wars between a country’s different communities, encouraged by shortsighted, self-centered politicians seeking to carve out and retain their power bases, by turning one people against the other through divisive politics based on communal or ideological identities. Trump being a case in point.
And these wars, external and internal are now crossing national boundaries and joining forces to devastate innocent lives in their search for violent retribution for real or imagined wrongs, within the country, or from outside. The driving force is hate, fostered by divisive politics, race or religion, most times all three.
This Easter Day, April 21, 2019, these ongoing divisions and hatreds manifested themselves in multiple explosions that were triggered in a number of churches and hotels in an otherwise beautiful Sri Lanka, killing over 300, and injuring nearly another 500 innocent people, who were either worshipping, or were in hotels as tourists, visitors and workers. The result was, hundreds of lives ended and ruined violently by hateful acts that will change nothing - politically, racially or religiously. It was simply an act of hateful, sinful waste that accomplished nothing but kill.
Sri Lanka has had a violent recent history of a bloody civil war between the primarily Hindu Tamil Tigers, and the predominantly Buddhist Singhalese Government, which was extremely destructive and brutal, and ended not that many years ago. Sri Lanka was trying to heal from that previous hateful war.
The scars and suspicions from that war had not yet fully healed, but the people of Sri Lanka had hoped the constant threat of violence was mostly behind them and they could move on to rebuild their country. And it had seemed to be working.
Lately, Sri Lanka had become one of the hottest tourist destinations, attracting people from all over the World with its iconic natural beauty and wildlife, its rich history, and its multi-cultural, multi-racial and religious society.
But the Easter Day bombings have shattered that budding reality, and Sri Lanka has once again turned into a terrorized battleground, where the security of its citizens and visitors is highly uncertain, and more critically, the trust within communities is once again shattered, and suspicions once again aroused.
And that is a pity, as unscrupulous ‘leaders’, both political and religious, will no doubt exploit the heightened suspicions and flame them for their own benefit.
The government agencies are pointing the finger at local Islamic extremists aided by foreign terrorist organizations. The nature of the bombings, being mostly suicide bombers, and their targets being Christian churches and foreign tourists and visitors, give some credence to that suspicion, but further investigations are required to ascertain the truth, with the aid of independent foreign investigators.
The majority of Sri Lankans (about 70%) are Singhalese Buddhists, just over 12% are Hindu, about 10 % are Muslims and just fewer than 8% or so are Christians.
These religiously diverse communities have lived together for decades, if not for centuries. And yet, with the resurgence of divisive identity politics, where leaders with limited capabilities but unlimited ambitions and thirst for power, stoke the latent suspicions and fears of various religious, ethnically and racially co-habitating people, and with the willing help of conscienceless religious communal leaders, create the environment of hatred that leads to the violence seen around the World – and more recently imported into in New Zealand from Australia, and now apparently, equally horrifically into Sri Lanka, working with local malcontents.
Of late, minorities of most countries are being persecuted by the more powerful majorities, generally led on by their political and religious leaders, be they so called ‘Christians’ as in the U.S., or ‘Muslims’ as in Pakistan, ‘Nationalist Hindus’ in India, or ‘Buddhists’ as in Myanmar - who in particular, have been accused of genocide against the beleaguered Muslim Rohingays.
We have the above religious titles in parentheses, because all those ‘religions’, at their core, teach ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ for fellow human beings, and some like Hinduism and Buddhism, even deep reverence for all living things. Yet, in today’s global politics, religion is being used as a weapon to justify hate and murder of innocents, egged on by ruthless and unscrupulous political and religious leaders.
It is high time that those who preach their religion the most actively, and publicly, stop ‘believing’ so much and start ‘practicing’ their own religious principles a lot more. Most religions teach ‘love’, while most current practitioners practice ‘hate’.
In the US and Europe, the backlash is against the displaced and the deprived from economically and war torn nations of the Middle East and Africa, Latin and South America, which had been colonized and plundered by the Europeans not too long ago. But, compassion for the looted, the war ravaged, the outnumbered, the weak, and the different, seems to be in short supply now-a-days, with lawless and unethical leadership goading on their people globally, against the ‘others’, be they the same nationality but different religions and ideologies (as with Trump, with the Muslims and Latinos), or different races, ethnicities and/or religions (as with Europe, and the migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East).
So many of these problems can be laid at the feet of incredibly bad leadership, globally. Either the ordinary people are suffering from the pervasive incompetence and corruption of leaders in underdeveloped countries, and/or the hubris and selfishness of the leaders of World’s powers (the US, China, Russia, Europe) as they continue to carve out spheres of influence and self-interest in different parts of the World for their own country’s benefit, at times leaving behind a trail of devastated or dysfunctional countries and continents, like Africa, South America and Latin America, Tibet, some Eastern and Central European countries, Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.
These historically exploitive wars and colonization(s) have left behind a trail of shattered lives and decades of resentment and anger, especially in the devastated Muslim countries that have spawned a lot of the current day ‘Islamic’ terrorism.
The bombings in Sri Lanka were cold blooded and horrific and cannot be justified by any belief or cause, of any religion, race or political ideology. They were simply inhumane and evil, just as the acts of the white-supremist shooter in New Zealand. But until the ‘Powers’ of today stop killing people in foreign lands and destroying their countries, putting it all down to ‘collateral damage’ in the pursuit of their own interests, and the corruption of leaders and the exploitation of ordinary people is not curtailed, the problem of ‘terrorism and extremism’ cannot be permanently extinguished.
Sri Lanka itself has been dealt a serious blow that will set it back years as the trust within its religiously and ethnically diverse communities is shattered once again, and its reputation in the World is once again labelled as ‘a dangerous place’.
And that’s a pity, because Sri Lanka is a wondrous island of ancient civilizations, multi religions and races, famed gems and teas, and exceptional natural beauty and wildlife. But unfortunately its political and religious leadership is divided, and plays partisan politics to curry favor and power from its various ethnic and religious communities and that makes it a fertile ground for extremism, be it Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or Christian. We hope Sri Lankan leadership, faced with the repercussions of such horrific acts as the Easter Day bombings, will turn towards healing their communities and their politics rather than turn to the much easier path that appeals to weak leadership everywhere – indulging in the perpetual blame game, and the game of divisive, identity politics.