I felt compelled to write this post, as I have on many occasions for the last couple of years as I have consistently read through reports of the BBS running rampant in my beautiful island nation.
The entire idea of the incitement of yet another minority in this country leaves me baffled and with a sense of sheer frustration. It was only a few memories ago that a different marginalised group of society was treated as second class citizens in a land that they have called home for generations. The results were devastating and our country still continues to struggle with the societal cracks and scars that were inflicted.
In the past, when I read or heard about the sentiments of differentiation and hatred which were being promoted by the BBS, I being from a minority myself, of course felt angry. The sheer hypocrisy of it all is clear and evident to see. I can easily identify how absurd it is, that a group of Buddhist monks are brandishing hatred and inciting violence and retribution against other populations. That from a group who claims that all other minorities practice a level of extremism within the country, who obviously haven’t looked into a mirror lately. However, today, within this piece, I feel it more pertinent to illustrate not a defensive reply, but instead one that represents togetherness and unity; and that I, like other Sri Lankan minorities, are really not that much different than those of the majority in our nation.
The basic tenet at the heart of the BBS’ rhetoric is that there is an impending need to keep Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist nation and to ‘protect’ the Buddhist population from catastrophic annihilation from ‘those extremist and oh so dangerous cult worshippers’, the Muslims and the Christians. The catchcry and defence mechanism utilised has been to point the finger at these minority groups and claim that conversion is rife and that if the Sinhala Buddhist population does not stand up against these ‘outsiders’, they will all be pushed into the sea. “Where will the Sinhala Buddhist population go if this continues?”, they cry; “You minorities can go to other Muslim and Christian nations across the World” they say…..
However, to the BBS I retort: although my religion may be different to yours, although my ethnicity may be different to yours, I am just as much Sri Lankan as you are. Yes, SOME of my ancestry can be traced back to elsewhere in the world, and yes this ancestry means that I and my family alike are Christian, however I am still Sri Lankan. Where can my family go if we cannot call Sri Lanka our homeland? Yes, SOME of our ancestry came over from Portugal or Holland, however this was in the 1500/1600’s and we know nothing of these people apart from the surnames we now bear and the religion we now adhere to & one that yes, like you are of your own, we too are similarly proud. Would it really be possible for myself and my family to knock at the door of these European nations and claim asylum? “We are Portuguese or Dutch I promise, I know not how, and why or from whom my lineage comes from but it has been dictated to me that I am”.
The only traditions we know, the only culture we practice, the only language we speak, is the same as yours. We are proud Sri Lankans who speak Sinhala and believe in our beautiful little country just as you do. We, like you, believe in the divinity of the one we worship to and yes, again, like you, this belief shapes the way we choose to live our lives. This belief means that we practice love, compassion and tolerance to our families, to those of the same religion and those who practice other forms of worship just the same.
To the BBS, we remind you that Buddhists in our country represent the overwhelming majority and as a small percentage of minorities we pose no threat. It is not our intention to drive you, our fellow countrymen, into the sea or anywhere else. We do not intend to blatantly disregard all forms of Sri Lankan culture or practice from the island. All we wish to do, is be treated the same and not as second class citizens in our own country. We wish to worship and practice our beliefs with the same type of freedom as those who adhere to the predominant religion in Sri Lanka; and most of all, we wish to be treated with dignity and respect, as fellow Sri Lankans in all elements of society and life.
Is this too much to expect?