Life Abroad – Part 95 “IF BLACK MAN IS UNWELCOME IN CHURCH WHO WANTS HIM IN HEAVEN”…? (INTERACTION WITH THE GOD’S MEN IN CLOTHE – Pt. III)
Posted on September 21st, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

At the height of the LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka, a delegation from the Council of Churches in the UK visited home on a peace promoting exercise. Upon their return, Sinhala expatriates in London had an interaction meeting with the team that visited Sri Lanka, which turned out to be a vociferous incident. To counter the myth that dominated at home at the time that expatriates involvement was much to be desired, the same writer published the proceedings of the meeting that took place in June 1999 in a Sri Lankan daily English newspaper. This is being dug out from the archives and reproduced in a serial format in the Life Abroad column (part iii) for the benefit of those who were not aware of the incident and/or who were lachrymose and pointed a finger at the expatriate Sinhala community for their lack of enthusiasm in helping the motherland in the hour of need.

Continuation from Pt. ii at this point of confused and alert state, George Parapitiya and Wimal Ediriweera stood up from the audience and handed over some maps of Sri Lanka to Fr. Davis, for his examination, which clearly displayed the LTTE claimed areas marked in red.

 

Douglas Wickremaratna, President of the Sinhala Association in London, has been well known among the Sri Lankan expatriate community overseas and at home as a tireless and fearless campaigner to confront even the hardcore supporters of the LTTE who represented terrorist organisation from London on the TV and Radio to counter their adverse propaganda.

In this instance, Douglas Wickremaratna quite bluntly put it to Fr. Davis that in certain quarters of the Sri Lankan community always there was an element of suspicion when the Church assumed ‘an Almighty role to intervene in different countries to solve all the worldly problems.

Fr. Davis’s response was that ‘the Church was only trying to do their best to help in whatever form they could.

Wickremaratna went on: “Sir, we are quite aware of the fact how Christians are killing Christians in Northern Ireland, but in our own country our Buddhist monks are not asked to come to governments aid towards our terrorist problem”!

Fr. Davies interrupted by saying: “We were requested to go to Sri Lanka………….”.

Wickremaratna pointed a finger at the Church in Sri Lanka for being responsible to a greater part of the existed problem and explained how ‘Ceylon’ was under Colonial rule for 450 years and right the way up to the time of the discussion (even after 51 years of independence of the country) the role played by the Church had been to push down the Sinhala Buddhists! You were speaking of solutions to the problem, but not once did you mention that the solution could be to defeat terrorism that exists in Sri Lanka today! Is that the role-played by the Church in Sri Lanka, I may ask.

He went on further arguing that the Church had always been associated with the terrorist movement in Sri Lanka and it was a pity that the Sinhalese people had been branded as ‘Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists – a phrase coined by the Christians in the West’.

Serbia and Rwanda

“We have seen the beastly acts of the Serbs in Serbia and Catholics massacring the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, but I have never seen in any English newspaper quoting the words ‘Serbian Christian chauvinistsor “Rwandan Catholics”! These are the countries where Christians and Catholics massacred millions of people, but was religion ever dragged into it or blamed”? Wickremaratna lamented.

Focusing on a statement made by Fr. Davis with regard to a possible third party mediation, similar to the South African model, Wickremaratna said Sri Lankan crisis had no relevance or bearing whatsoever on South Africa!

Fr. Davis was further prompted that when he (Fr. Davis) went to convert the Black people of South Africa to Christianity they were not even allowed to pray in the same church with the whites! “If you dont want the black man in your church who the hell wants him in heaven, and for what” ……? asked Wickremaratna, which made everyone in the audience burst into laughter, including Fr. Davis.

When the laughter subsided Fr. Davis referring back to South Africa said, ‘it had been a long time ago’. However, Douglas Wickremaratna rephrased his query in a different approach and asked whether Fr. Davis knew what had been proposed as a Devolution Package to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and that the EDEP had accepted it?

Still continuing on the same topic, Wickremaratna wanted to know whether the Church in England would recommend a similar package to Scotland or England where it could be divided to fifteen regions and parts and given to Asians, Blacks, Cypriots or any other ethnic minority!

Peace and warmongers

“When it comes to Sri Lankan affairs and we talk against the division of our own country, Sir, we are branded as jingoists or Buddhist chauvinists and the Church seems to endorse and support such a view that some of those so called peace mongers come out with. May I, therefore, suggest that it is immensely vital to first identify the exact problem (terrorism) extant in Sri Lanka where a certain section of the Tamil people have turned fanatical and are claiming to cleave the sovereignty we all enjoy at present and to have a separate homeland for them exclusively “.

Fr. Davis attempted to project the role of the Church by saying, ‘the Church in general wanted to make a positive contribution to the Sri Lankan crisis, and he couldn’t sit and do nothing because of the past history, and he felt he was duty bound to try and address some of the wrongs done in the past and to make a positive effort to diffuse the situationto which Wickremaratna replied: The Church could actually start paying compensation to Sri Lanka”.

The interaction assembly steadily became recalcitrant when Chaminda Tilakumara held a placard depicting young LTTE soldiers carrying guns to draw the attention of Fr. Davis and bellowed:

“Just have a look at this – who are these? These are child soldiers of the LTTE sent as cannon fodder. These innocent Tamil kids, children of Sri Lanka, are being brainwashed and forced to believe in all the balderdash the LTTE tell them as the gospel truth!

‘About ten years ago the World Council of Churches passed a resolution to say that the north and east of Sri Lanka were traditional homelands of the Tamils. Now these young indoctrinated kids have taken up arms and go as cannon provender with the determination to defend their mythical homeland what the Church endorses! What a sorry state of affairs, and the Church has to take some responsibility towards this venal act!

Expressing his opinions further on utter wastage of human life, Tilakumara urged Fr. Davis to study the issues surrounding the problem in Sri Lanka and then only to act and react objectively with actualities. “If you are trying to solve our problem Fr. Davis blind folded, then you will have to address the problem first within the Church itself”.

Fr. Davis’s attempt to defend the National Church Council in Sri Lanka was immediately drowned by the pandemonium that lasted within the hall. The peace keeping meeting surely had transformed into a somewhat raucous manifestation.

Tilakumara went on making further references to Fr. Kenneth Fernando and Jehan Perera as two individuals who were working for their own self-interest, but not for the common interest of their mother country. The unfortunate factor that dominates in this scenario Fr. Davis is that you have been taken for a jolly good ride by a group of extremists who want to promote the Devolution package and divide Sri Lanka”, he said.

Fr. Davis was seen getting red-faced, impatient and helpless. As a desperate interchange he threw a question at the speaker: “Can you tell me exactly how to help in this situation”?

Tilakumara referred to an academic study (thesis) completed by a Tamil Professor named Indrapala, on the history of Sri Lanka, and suggested that Fr. Davis should read Prof. Indrapala’s works, a copy of which, he said, was available for reference purposes at the University of London.

Tilakumara’s next move managed to transfix the whole assembly when he addressed Fr. Davis thus:

“Fr. Davis, I am a Catholic myself, and I have a lot of Buddhist friends too. Unfortunately in this present scenario, I dont have a place to hide my face because the Church, the very church you and I belong to, is totally bamboozled and they are dancing to the tune of the Tamil extremists”.

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To be continued in part IV

 

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