Posted by: lrrp | March 9, 2009

Open letter by a staunch Catholic to Cardinal Gomis and fellow Christians

Dear Cardinal Oswald Gomis, It is with a heavy heart, I write this open letter to you, the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, sincerely hoping to draw your attention as well as the attention of all Christians in my motherland.

I am a devout Catholic born and bred in Negombo, the unofficial capital of Catholicism in Sri Lanka. My name reflects the Portugese roots of our religion in Sri Lanka, just like yours, probably. Although at present I live in Australia, having migrated due to family reasons, I am a patriotic Sri Lankan who has served in the Sri Lankan Navy for 12 years with the ID Number A2860. Therefore, I keep myself well informed about happenings in Sri Lanka through the internet, newspapers, telephone calls and frequent visits. As such, on the 4th February, using the internet, I was eagerly listening to news about the Independence Day celebrations through SLBC City FM service (I must say that this service is a godsend for Sri Lankans like me who are thirsty for news from our motherland).

When at one point, the program started broadcasting your service, delivered at Kotahena St Lucia Cathedral, I braced myself with devotion to listen to our Head of Churche’s holy words on our nation’s holiest day taking into consideration the current situation in our motherland. However, sad to say, instead of making me feel pious, proud and happy, your whole sermon made me sick, ashamed and angry.

I fervently expected you to speak about our successful heroic struggles to gain freedom, both from the clutches of the cruel western colonists of the old as well as from the yoke of the vicious inhuman terrorists of the present day.

Instead, indirectly, but quite obviously, you belittled our heroes of the past and present. On our freedom day, without a word of blessing for our frontline soldiers who are sacrificing their lives and limbs to save the nation, you spoke about a “political solution”. A church that blessed, in the name of Christianity, the Crusaders and the Spaniards who murdered hundreds of thousands of people, failed to bless those who die to save others. You defended the brutal Portugese by saying that their’s was not an invasion, that they had almost no impact on the island of ours. Well, the fact is that the Portugese were the cruellest among our three western invaders, the Dutch and the British being the other two. You being a scholar, surely cannot claim that you do not know about the macabre Portugese atrocities. You are well aware how, under the leadership of Asavedu, the Portugese invaded the villages around Malwana, corralled all the women to an open area after raping them, ordered their men to assemble around the venue at gun point and bayoneted the women, slitting their bellies. Babies in their hands were thrown up into the air and were caught on the points of swords. The marauders laughed at the death cries of the babies saying that they sounded like the cries of chickens. These were the criminals you whitewashed on our national radio on our national day! Similarly, now I can understand why you failed to say a single word about the inhuman atrocities committed by the present day terrorists, the Tamil Tigers.

Being the supreme leader of our Catholic faith in Sri Lanka, I expected you to be factual and knowledgeable. However, you were neither. You exhibited your lack of knowledge (or was it?) of our history by claiming that it was not the Portugese who brought Catholicism to Sri Lanka and that Christianity was thriving for thousands of years prior to the advent of them. Perhaps, you may think that the fact that a cross was found during excavations in Anuradhapura among other offerings (such as Roman coins) made by ancient merchants is proof that Christianity was existing in Sri Lanka at that time. For your information, may I tell you that the ruins of Anuradhapura predate Jesus Christ and that the cross was an important symbol used by people much before Christ was born.

I passionately expected you to bring a message of goodwill and peace, a message of healing, a message of repentance that would alleviate the mistrust Sri Lankans of other religions may have against the Catholics, with or without reason. But instead, you indirectly pointed a finger of accusation at our Buddhist brothers by saying that they think the Catholic Church is behind the troubles of Sri Lanka.

My dear Cardinal, let me tell you as a devout self-critical Christian, that if the majority of Sri Lankans mistrust the Christian Churches in general and the Catholic Church in particular, it is not a surprise at all. The reasons are as follows:

· It was Sri Lanka’s Anglican primate who once notoriously said that the abominable LTTE leader Prabhakaran was a humane person;

· The Bishop of Mannar, Rev Rayappu continually criticised our heroic forces but never had a bad word about the LTTE. He distorted information and lied about the situation in Mannar and Madu Church making it extremely difficult for the Sri Lankan forces to liberate the areas;

· A Catholic Priest in Jaffna who went on International TV (I watched it from here) explained why he supported the LTTE: “I was a Tamil before I became a Catholic”, he brazenly said;

· The Catholic Church never ever said an encouraging word about our heroic soldiers. On the contrary, many statements from the Church appeared to sabotage the efforts of bringing the terrorists to book;

· During the last elections, you foolishly appeared on a full page advertisement on national papers calling all Catholics to support Ranil Wickramasinghe, a total failure who was against any attempt to finish off the LTTE terrorism. Ranil who signed the ignominious “ceasefire” which strengthened the terrorists bringing death to many more innocents is still openly supported by the Church;

· Christians of all faiths make up less than 10% of Sri Lanka’s population. However, they still command a disproportionate influence in all facets of Sri Lankan politics. For example, more than 75% of Minister’s in Ranil’s cabinet were Christians, mostly Catholics. How come?

· The majority Buddhists and their kings saved the Catholics from persecution by the Anglicans during the British rule by allowing them to settle in nominated villages in the Kandyan kingdom. Now, the Catholic Church, instead of being grateful to the Buddhists, is trying to control the affairs of their country. Church leaders, instead of being model citizens, are seen to be friendlier with the arch enemy of the nation, the Tamil Tiger terrorists.

Therefore, my dear Cardinal, I beg you to change your ways and those of the Church you are in charge of by doing everything you can to pacify people of other faiths and become a friend of them and their country and nation, rather than a saboteur.

The rest of this letter is addressed to my fellow Sri Lankan Christians in general and Catholics in particular.

My dear brothers and sisters, I hope this letter opens eyes of both the Church and the lay Christians. The church is a vehicle we developed to help us join hands and serve the almighty, an institution to help keep our faith alive. It should not be a autocratic establishment that governs us, that dictates to us, that cannot be questioned and corrected. Our saviour, Jesus Christ did not use a Church, neither did he anoint anyone or any institution to have dictatorial powers to say or do whatever the incumbents wanted. Because of our unyielding faith in God, we have been lagging in assessing the workings of our Churches. Church is not God. Church is an institution manned by mere mortals with all the weaknesses that humans possess. If we confer to the Church the very same level of uncompromising faith we bestow to God, it can and will cease to be the institution we expected it to be. In the past, we have made this mistake and the results were appalling. Few examples are:

· Several Popes, including the current incumbent had to apologize for serious mistakes on their part. Turning a blind eye to the extermination of Jews by the Nazis, statements made denying the holocaust, statements made against Islam are some of the issues about which they had to apologize;

· Many billions of dollars have been paid as compensation to victims of sexual harassment by priests, resulting in complete bankruptcy of some Churches. Most of these crimes had been initially denied by the Church hierarchy.

It is up to us to decide; whether we become enslaved by an institution of our own making, which has now turned to be a monster that controls us or whether we talk to our Church Leaders and bring them back to sense. After all, God lives in our hearts, not in Churches gone astray.

Gracian Fernando, Australia


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