Bias of mainstream English language press on religious issues in Sri Lanka
Posted on April 7th, 2012

By  Senaka Weeraratna

On April 5, 2012 the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ editorial echoing the views of a well-known University teacher and a Buddhist, Dr. Attanayake M. Herath called for the banishing of male chauvinism from the Sri Dalada Maligawa and its precincts and stated that since a woman bore Prince Siddhartha who as the Buddha gave utmost respect to women there was no reason why women should be debarred from taking care of the Buddha’s tooth relic.

The issue here is not Dr. Attanayake’s views but why the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ and other mainstream English newspapers have not shown similar enthusiasm for reform when it comes to matters involving non-Buddhist establishments “”…” problems that are glaringly patent to anyone.

In the case of alleged male chauvinism in the Dalada Maligawa, the “ƒ”¹…”Island’s editorial focus is not only limited but is narrow and lacks balance.  If the editor takes the trouble to open his eyes he will see there is another institution of a much bigger size where almost every kind of prejudice is entrenched. It is universal in its spread and has its tentacles also in Sri Lanka. I am referring to the Roman Catholic Church and in particular to the Papacy. 

Let me refresh the mind of the editor and those who shares his views. Jesus Christ it is claimed was born in Bethlehem (Palestine) and technically an Asian. But the Papacy has been exclusively European since its very inception nearly 2000 years ago. Despite God’s and Jesus Christ’s love for humanity regardless of race, religion and colour, the managers of the Papacy have found it extremely difficult throughout its history to share that goodwill with others who are non-european when it comes to electing the head of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican. 

No Indian, Chinese (or any other Asian) or Black African has been deemed fit to adorn that office. It is therefore no wonder that the Chinese Government in defense of its sovereignty and national pride refuses to allow a Chinese Catholic to owe allegiance to the Vatican. Likewise the Chinese Government refuses to recognize any appointment of a Chinese as a Bishop or Cardinal by the Vatican. 

That is left for the Chinese Catholics to decide and not for foreigners or institutions outside the country. It is a good precedent for the rest of the world to follow. The Chinese example is a reminder, particular to leaders of Asian Christianity to learn to stand on their feet and grow unaided. 

Their servile mindset and subservience to western colonial trappings is the chief cause for the failure and rejection of Christianity in Asia.  Other Asians have still some pride left in them, despite 500 years of western colonial repressive rule in Asia. 

The recent UNHCR vote at Geneva is a good example of Asian sense of togetherness in adversity and shared past under western domination. Almost all Asian countries comprising Buddhist, Muslim and even One Christian i.e. Philippines, bar one i.e. India, stood together as one and rallied round a fellow Asian nation. It was also a public display that Asian nations support each other, especially when nations outside of the group are targeting and bullying them. 

In contrast almost all the Western European nations with Christian heritage, most of them with an indefensible track record of crimes against humanity, human rights violations and theft of national assets, during their colonial rule in Asia, Africa and Latin America, closed ranks and voted against a small Asian nation which was fighting for its survival against a ruthless band of terrorists.  It is clear that the inquisitorial and colonial mindset still governs western nations.  

As for male chauvinism it would seem that a woman hasn’t a ghost of a chance of ever ascending the pinnacle of the Vatican.    The world is unlikely to witness a female Pope in the foreseeable future despite incessant western rhetoric of human rights and gender equality.

10 Responses to “Bias of mainstream English language press on religious issues in Sri Lanka”

  1. Walter Rajaratne Says:

    The article has posed a pertinent question to the editor for questioning the validity of charges against the most venerated Buddhist institution, Temple of Tooth Relic, on its practice that leads to gender discrimination. The 2000 year history stands proof of the practice that Christianity would never change its policy of papacy to be headed by a woman.
    Nonetheless, Lord Buddha in his discourses have never said that no woman could be the head of a Buddhist organisation, when HE Himself established the Buddhist nunnery that paved the way for women to give up lay life so that they could dedicate their entire life to practice Buddhism. So let us not delve into matters what others practice but concentrate on what we do not practice.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    The answer is very simple – Prabath Sahabandu the Editor-in-chief of the Island Newspaper purportedly own by a so called Buddhist family is a Christian with a very Christian Agenda. This is the same with all the major newspapers in Sri Lanka – they are in the hands of Christians and they do all what is possible to undermine Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

    I would urge the Editor-in-chief to also investigate and give due publicity to pedophilia in the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka so that victims can be adequately compensated as is done other countries in the west. Catholic church is the richest land owner in the world and is also one of the richest in the world. They have enough wealth to compensate the victims.

  3. AnuD Says:

    Jesus may be an Asian or a Middle – easterner. But, Christianity was born in Roman.

    I think Dr. Herath should first understand why feminism began in the west and disappeared.

    If Dr. Herath is a good Buddhist he should understand while Buddha treated the women best at that time why Buddha had restrictions on women.

    I think the major point is people should not try to explain the religious society in terms of the civilian society.

    Buddhist monks can be compared only with the Christian monastic society. Church pastors are not the same.

  4. samurai Says:

    Walter Rajaratne says let us not delve into what others practice. Why not? Both Buddhism and Roman Catholic religion have followers in Sri Lanka. And all of them are citizens of this country and any of them has the right to question what he/she considers as unbalanced media criticism. There is nothing called ‘us’ and ‘them’ here.

    Yes, the Buddha never said in his discourses that no woman could be the head of a Buddhist organization. Therefore if the custodians / trustees of the Sri Dalada Maligawa decide and majority of Buddhists want let a woman be appointed. That is a different matter.

    Rajaratne has missed the whole point which is that the mainstream English newspapers have never shown such enthusiasm in criticizing the faults of the Christian Churches. The National Child Protection Authority raided a children’s home run by Catholic nuns in Moratuwa last year an English newspaper ran a editorial criticizing the raid even before the investigations were completed. But we have never seen similar protests in the English media when Buddhist monks were arrested on suspicion of committing offences.

    Also Rajaratne has failed to reply the point the writer has made that “Despite God’s and Jesus Christ’s love for humanity regardless of race, religion and colour, the managers of the Papacy have found it extremely difficult throughout its history to share that goodwill with others who are non-european when it comes to electing the head of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican.”

  5. Voice123 Says:

    @ Senaka, for your information there have been 3 black African popes. Pope St Victor I (ca186-198), Pope St Miltiades (311-14), and Pope St Gelasius (492-496)-were Africans. St Paul and many of the apostles were brown Middle Easterners based in Asia Minor. The religion itself drifted west earlier on. If you research church history and its connection with the state, it was the protestant churches of Northern Europe that invented the racist concept of “white race”. (Before them, there was only different nationalities of Europe and the near East and the concept was unheard of). The reformed churches including the Dutch Reformed Church invented the idea of the invented “white race” as god’s “chosen people” and took that idea to America and elsewhere to justify slavery, colonialism and all manner of exploitation. The black African Popes were around centuries before that when the Catholic church was a more egalitarian institution.

  6. AnuD Says:

    Voice123:

    FYI, there was even a woman pope (IX). But, she was killed brutally as soon as they found it because she had a child from a Bishop. Check and see.

  7. AnuD Says:

    [ Bias of mainstream English language press on religious issues in Sri Lanka]

    Sri Lanka’s initial leaders had Catholic/christian background and were educated in the west. Even the president is not completely out of that. So, the majority is suffering. Some academics may talk without thinking carefully.

    Sri Lanka need to take careful action to change many things. Since, 1948 we did not do anything. None of the politicians had the vision or the courage.

    See here, even with the so much talk about others, everything is carefully planned in order to suppress every one else except what they majority ideology wants.

  8. sena Says:

    Like to know for the large amount of donations Maligawa receive is their any system of proper accounting and record keeping? Are these sums used in any social service projects in the hill country where the rural people are the most victimized by colonial rule and the poorest in the country?

  9. sena Says:

    Mr. Ratanapala should report him to Rupavahini and add his name to the traitor list which is used as a cover for all those corrupting and law breaking patriots.

  10. jr Says:

    Anyone who lives in so called western countries would know that they are some of the most anti Christian countries on earth. These western countries have passed anti christian legislation, banned any christian lessons, prayers or signs from schools, banned the distribution of bibles .. etc.. etc. So I don’t understand from where the writer of this article got the idea that the western countries are promoting christianity. There is constant friction between the church and the governments in these countries.

    Countries like Thailand, Burma, Loas and Kampuchea that have a higher percentage of Theravada buddhists than Sri Lanka (more than 90% of the population) don’t allow female monks. They even consider that Sri Lanka has polluted theravada buddhism by allowing female monks.

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