Friday 1st September, 2023
The Kurundimale temple dispute in Mullaitivu has not led to religious clashes thanks to timely police action, which made troublemakers act with some restraint. But tensions have not subsided, and they have the potential to reach a flashpoint anytime. There is a pressing need for the law enforcement agencies to remain Argus-eyed and for the political authority to take immediate action to eliminate the causes of the dispute lest zealots involved therein should succeed in achieving their goal of igniting religious violence.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is snowed down with hard work on the economic front, now has another problem to contend with. But he, as the Minister of Defence, is expected to ensure that law and order issues are sorted out expeditiously in all parts of the country. He is reported to have informed the Malwatte and Asgiriya Maha Nayake Theras of the appointment of a committee consisting of religious leaders to resolve conflicts like the one at Kurundimale. This is a welcome move, which will go a long way towards defusing ethno-religious tensions before they give rise to violence.
Violent extremists, however, are impervious to reason, and there could arise unfortunate situations where they resort to violence, ignoring wise counsel and exhortations. Therefore, the government should seriously consider setting up a rapid reaction force to respond to incidents of religious violence swiftly and bring troublemakers to justice in double quick time in case the religious leaders’ interventions become ineffective in preventing clashes. Religious and communal violence spreads like wildfire mostly due to delays on the part of the police and the military to disperse mobs before they go on the rampage.
It is also imperative that the violent extremists in the garb of people’s representatives be reined in. The MPs among them abuse their parliamentary privileges to promote conflict and even obstruct the police with impunity. Some of them were seen in action at Kurundimale, inciting their followers to aggressive protests. They should not be dealt with in the same way as ordinary people who happen to be on the wrong side of the law. Worryingly, there are some religious leaders who suffer such violent characters gladly, so to speak, and even invoke blessings on them in public, granting them undue recognition in the process. Behind every conflict in this country there is a depraved politician.
Anti-politics is on the rise in this country, as is public knowledge. The people’s disillusionment with the political establishment is palpable. This however is not a phenomenon endemic to any particular nation. It has become a matter of global concern, for an erosion of public faith in established political systems nurtures anarchy. Similarly, there has been a discernible rise in anti-religiosity, especially among the present-day youth, globally, as evident from the sheer number of social media posts critical of religions.
If religions are seen to be creating animosity, discord and conflict instead of fostering peace and fellowship, their absence might naturally become preferable to rational minds. Fundamentalism, which engenders bigotry and militancy destroys religions from within, promotes strife among the adherents of the faiths it purports to foster to the point of driving many of them away and plunges nations that succumb to it into utter chaos. The world is likely to lean more towards secularism, if not anti-religiosity, owing to endless religious conflicts characterised by mindless violence. Unfortunately, this stark reality seems to have escaped the attention of religious leaders. Worse, some members of the clergy themselves promote religious discord and advocate direct action.
The committee of prelates tasked with resolving religious conflicts in this country has its work cut out, given the sheer number of contentious issues and violent zealots out there. It deserves everyone’s support to overcome challenges and obstacles in its path. Resolving the Kurudimale Temple issue will be the moment of truth for it.