by Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
Alleviation of people’s sufferings is primarily a spiritual concern. It is in that light we need to reflect on the insightful submissions made to the LLRC by the Bishop of Mannar Dr. Rayappu Joseph.
As this particular commission is mandated by the President, the report will be handed over to him at a future date and what happens thereafter depends on the degree of accountability that the government holds over the lives of people in that part of the country. It is then up to the President if he so decides to respond positively to the suggestions made by the bishop in view of minimizing people’s sufferings.
In his submissions one can read some of the key and crucial issues affecting the community there and the suggestions which, if carried out, would mitigate people’s sufferings. I was inspired to reflect on just two points.
Bishop of Mannar has clearly reiterated, ‘In order to achieve genuine and lasting reconciliation, we believe it is crucial to address roots of the conflict and war, primarily issues affecting Tamils such as recognition of their political reality, language, land, education and political power sharing’.
An important point that the Bishop raises is the fact that the war is a result and not the cause. As long as the socio economic and political climate which is the cause that pushed the youth to have recourse to arms remains unchanged peace cannot actually dawn even though the war has now come to an end. True peace and reconciliation can be established only if the cause for the war is totally eliminated.
The ‘Four Noble Truths’ teach us that suffering cannot be eliminated unless its root cause is removed. In the light of the gospels, the root cause of human suffering is the suppression of God’s law of Justice. The proclamation of the good news to the poor, prisoners, bound and oppressed has been the mission of Jesus in view of relieving them of their suffering.
The elimination of root cause in this context implies the implementation of the proposal to share power. Except among the fanatics, there is a consensus among all right thinking people on the need for a political solution; why then is such a solution delayed? It is a tragedy that those Southern politicians, who in the past very courageously argued and campaigned for the need of political power-sharing with the Tamil community in the North and East, have for the sake of political expediency almost lost their interest in the matter!
Nonetheless, the civil society in the South, more particularly the Christian community as a whole and all ‘people of good will’ ought to awaken themselves to their obligation towards the suffering community in the North and raise their voice to insist on the need for power-sharing as a political solution to the perennial problem in our country.
As Christians and brothers and sisters of one and same family, our concern for the Tamil community can find a genuine expression only by courageously supporting the idea of power-sharing.
For the Christians Truth is an essential dimension of Faith. It alone has the power to save. One’s Faith can be dead and sterile. It can be living faith only if one lives by what Faith demands of him/her. In the present context it demands everyone to speak the Truth as it has manifested in the socio political realities of our land.
Another challenge thrown at the authorities both political as well as religious is to clarify ‘the discrepancy between the number of people who came to government controlled areas between October 2008 – May 2009 and the population reported to be in Vanni in early October 2008’.
In this country, Buddhism preaches, ‘May all beings be free from suffering’ and Christianity advocates ‘Universal Love’ as its central tenet.
Can the other bishops take up these matters which the Bishop of Mannar is raising?
When I pose this question, I can hear someone shouting "another Tiger is still alive"!