The Sunday Leader

Religion – To Kill Or Die For?

By Waruni Karunarathne

The ‘Great Sangha Council’ organised by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) with the participation of Buddhist religious leaders of the South Asian region including Ven. Ashin Wirathu Thero who is known as the leader of the 969 anti-Muslim Movement in Myanmar, created great agitation among the religious minorities in Sri Lanka.

Considering the previous incidents where religious minorities in Sri Lanka and their places of worship came under attack and considering the tension created by religious extremist groups in the country, many see a fair reason behind the fear in the minds of the minority in the country. Now that five years have elapsed since the end of the war, many noted that the Buddhist nationalism seems to be taking the country down another war path.

Recalling the incidents in the past, minority religious communities noted that there have been many attacks on mosques and churches in the recent past targeting religious minority in the country by extremist Buddhist groups allegedly led or provoked by certain groups of Buddhist monks. The infamous Aluthgama incident that took place with an outburst of riots displacing people in June this year left a black mark in the country clouding the minds of peace loving people. Attacks on places of warship this year also included the burning down of the prayer centre of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Pitipana, near Colombo and attacks on a church in Dambulla, the Assemblies of God Church and Calvary Free Church in the southern coastal town of Hikkaduwa.

By looking at the incidents, in the US State Report for 2013 on International Religious Freedom, Sri Lanka is identified among the countries that lack religious freedom. According to the findings of the report, the BBS is behind a growing wave of anti-Muslim activities carried out by other violent Buddhist nationalist groups and they were allegedly involved in a series of attacks on mosques and had sustained an attempt to further marginalise Muslims. “On December 1, Buddhist monks reportedly led a mob of 200 villagers that destroyed the Methodist Church of Habarana in Anuradapura District. Two Criminal Investigation Division (CID) police officers arrived at the scene and ordered the church to shut down, saying that it had no legal recognition to operate,” the report further stated. Many have noted that the state police have not been able to provide protection for the religious minority in the country.

At their “Great Sangha Council” that concluded recently, the BBS produced a policy framework towards making Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist state. They openly warned the Government that they would even push for a change of the Government if necessary measures are not being taken by the Government to meet their demands.

The BBS has also warned the Muslim Council saying that they would be taken care of as the Muslim Council had written to the President urging to refuse visa to Ven. Ashin Wirathu, the dreaded leader of 969 Movement in Myanmar to enter Sri Lanka. According to the BBS, Ashin Wirathu had only carried out a peaceful grass-root movement to promote and protect religion from Muslim extremists. According to the statistics of the Burmese Government, 89% of the population in Burma is Buddhist whereas Muslim community does not even have an elected representation. When Time magazine cover branded Ashin Wirathu Thero as “The Face of the Buddhist Terror”, the issue of the magazine was banned in Sri Lanka even though the cover story had nothing to do with Sri Lanka due to the pressure of the Buddhist extremists. Meantime, Ashin Wirathu Thero praised the BBS saying that the BBS are playing an important role in Sri Lanka to safeguard Buddhism in Sri Lanka against rising threats of extremists.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BBS Dilantha Withanage told The Sunday Leader that the BBS do not believe that Sinhala Buddhist in Sri Lanka have received any freedom or gained any power even after independence. According to him, representatives of minority groups seem to have more power to take decisions in the country whereas Sinhala Buddhists do not have a say.

In order to recognise Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist state, the BBS demanded that the name of the country should be changed into Sinhele which according to Withanage was the name used before 1815’s. He added that the religion of the state should be Buddhism and Sinhala should be the state language whereas Tamil and English should only function as languages of communication. “There should be only one nationality in the country – that is Sinhala. Tamils who live in this country should be Sinhala Tamils. Muslims who live here should be Sinhala Muslims and Hindus who live here should be Sinhala Hindus,” he said. Meantime, he said that those who are Sinhala Tamils, Sinhala Muslims or Sinhala Hindus would surely be considered as their brothers and assured that this change is intended for a harmonious existence for all communities.

The BBS also made accusations directing at UNP MP Eran Wickramaratne for being involved with the Assemblies of God (AOG) which the BBS alleged has been carrying out propaganda to convert Buddhists. Responding to that UNP MP Eran Wickramaratne said that the AOG is one of the largest Non Catholic (Protestant) denominations in the world with nearly 70 million members in over 120 countries and he has no standing to voice an opinion on the matter on behalf of the AOG.

Generally, he added that the country’s constitution rightly protects the citizen’s right to believe in and practice any religion. “This includes a person’s freedom to take on, leave or change any religion or system of belief. I am in support of every citizen having the right to choose or change one’s own religion, whether they be Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Christian or followers of Islam. This is what makes our country a democracy,” he stated.

He added that he does not believe it is right to coerce someone forcibly to join a religion or place of worship and would not support this. According to him, he will always support the protection of freedom as Sri Lankans and added that he would not get involved in hate speech.

Supporting the cause of the BBS, the president of the Hindu Federation N. Arunkanth –said that they are agreeing with some of the BBS demands. According to him, their aim is to declare the states of the South Asian region as a Buddhist Hindu region. He added that they hope to get the support of India to promote their cause. “As far as we are concerned Sinhalism or Buddhism is the nationalistic ideology. We have nothing against that as the majority of the country is Sinhala Buddhists,” he added. According to him they have joined hands with the BBS against the “Muslim terrorism”. He was convinced that the demands of the BBS are for the protection of the minority under one Sinhala national identity. Therefore he said that the minority communities should be made aware of these demands which according to him would actually protect the minority.

Accordingly the main goal of the BBS is to form a new constitution, develop a proper agenda and to create citizens who love the country in identifying this country as a Sinhala Buddhist country. “At this meeting we formed a policy framework to achieve that goal and to create a discourse among people for another year. For a year we will go from house to house and village to village advocating and creating awareness among people about our cause,” Withanage added. According to the BBS, Sri Lanka is facing a serious threat from the Muslim extremist groups in the country.

Minister Rizad Badurdeen noted that when the population of Muslims in Sri Lanka is less than 10% it is hardy comprehensive why the majority feels threatened. Since the war ended, he added that the BBS has been creating a different set of issues leading to many disturbances in the society. According to him, the President has been spending a huge amount of money to promote, protect and uplift Buddhism in Sri Lanka and therefore he sees no threat to Buddhism in Sri Lanka.  “Extremist ideologies, Sinhalese, Muslims, Tamils or any other group should not be tolerated or allowed in the country. There need to be a mechanism to take legal actions against those who make hate speeches and incite hatred among the communities leading to violence,” Badurdeen said.   Referring to the Aluthgama incident, he accused the BBS for producing speeches that provoked the communities creating chaos.

The General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Hasan Ali said that the serious declaration made by the BBS recently is against the Constitution of the country. He added that by demanding to identify minority of the country as Sinhala Muslims, Christians or Hindus, the BBS is simply trying to change the religious and ethnic identity of the minority. “They even went to the extent of demanding to remove the two colours that represent minority in the national flag – and they said that this is not a multi-religious country. If we challenge their views or demands, they will twist the idea and market it in the Sinhala community to turn it against us. Therefore we do not want to make any comments,” he added. He said that it is up to the government to come forward to protect the minority in the country and take actions if anyone is going against the Constitution of the country.

He also pointed out that if anyone from the minority made any remarks similar to what BBS has been making in public, they would be taken behind the bars under Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA) whereas no action is being taken against the BBS who is publicly inciting violence against minority communities in the country. “We have already issued a statement requesting the government to provide additional protection for the Muslim minority in the country as our community feel unsafe under these circumstances,” he added.

Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara stated that recogniSing this country as a Sinhala Buddhist state is against the current Constitution of the country and it is therefore not acceptable. He said that people may have the right to object and work within the framework of freedom and democracy in the country but as long as this Constitution prevails they cannot act beyond it. He also added that when bringing up the previous constitutions, the question of Sinhala Buddhist had come up and therefore if certain groups are to advocate such cause, they will have to confine themselves to small group of people. “They can make remarks but they will have to go around and convince people – and if they get a representative of people in sufficient numbers in the parliament, then only they can raise it seriously. Else there is no voice to be given any attention,” Minister Nanayakkara added.

Minsiter Nanayakkara added that meetings can be held as long as they do not indulge in hate speech to arouse violence against any community. He said that groups can keep advocating their cause as long as their speeches do not lead to violence. According to him, the proposed legal provision to take legal actions against hate speech will soon be incorporated in the Penal Code in the country’s legislation. “Recently it was sent to the Cabinet and now it is before the President to put it down in the agenda. After that it can go to the legal draft person. There is a delay in the process,” he added.

However he added that under the existing laws in this country namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) passed by the UN which has been adopted by the Sri Lankan as well as under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), hate speech is an offence which will become effective at any time. “We need to bring it within the Penal Code to facilitate the security officers/police to discharge their duties,” he said.

 

Democracy Will Provide Solutions – Ven. Gnanasara Thera

Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, addressed various allegations against the organization, while alleging that ‘some leaders were, and are Sinhalese Buddhists, only by birth.’ He added that they had failed to provide security to the majority community and the religion. 

 

By Camelia Nathaniel


Q: There are allegations that the recent Sangha Convention was full of militant rhetoric. Do you agree?

A: Definitely not. This is how some try to cheat and deceive the public according to their religion.  It was a great success. More than 5,000 Bhikkus attended the event which was very successful and peaceful. Anyone can watch the whole programme on www.bodubalasena.com. We know that the truth is bitter for some. Hard speech is taken as hate speech. We do not promote conversions of other religious groups by force or kill the unbelievers.

 

Q: In a country where the majority is Sinhalese including the President and most of the Cabinet Ministers, why do you feel the Sinhalese are at risk?

A: Certainly, the Sinhalese are there. They may like to protect the Sinhalese but due to global finances, global media, global politics, global terrorism – all in favour of anti-Buddhists and Sinhalese, we are a global minority. At the same time, all the leaders from 1948 were trapped in structures built by the British. Our leaders could not free us from those structures, or that   mentality. Some leaders were and are Sinhalese Buddhists only by birth. If someone says that the   Sinhalese are not at a risk, we need to send them to hospital as their senses do not seem to function properly.

 

Q: What made you invite Ven. Wirathu, who is considered one of the most controversial Asian monks, and described by the Time magazine as a terrorist, to address your convention?

A: There is a tradition between Sri Lanka and Myanmar to share our concerns and have exchanges of support from the good old days. If he is not a controversial monk you will not interview him; similarly we will not talk about him. We know that Time magazine made Sri Lankan leaders also bad people. Time magazine is not the truth or the Dhamma for us to follow.  We invited all Buddhist organizations to send their representatives, and Myanmar had sent the best and most suitable leader to make our great Sangha Council a success.

 

Q. The Muslim Council had claimed that you had threatened them openly at the convention and had expressed fear that the BBS will instigate a campaign of violence against them. Is there a basis for their fear?

A: What is this Muslim Council? They have mushroom organizations. We have to say there is no fear for Muslims. In reality, the Sinhalese, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians/Catholics are in fear. These leaders always cheat and deceive the public. We will expose them soon. I challenged them to answer some questions. Instead of creating fear among poor and innocent Muslims with the aim of getting international funding, they should answer those questions. Challenging and threatening are two different things. The government intelligence and the authorities should investigate the wealth of some of these leaders. We know how they misused international funds. They cheat poor and innocent Muslims.

Everyone knows where there is violence. We can hire charter flights to Syria and Iraq for these Muslim leaders to go to preach this religion of peace to ISIS leaders so that they will be peaceful before they go to heaven. Buddhists can collect money to pay for the charter flight. Let them be accompanied by the defeated Dilan Perera, and our Social Integration Minister, Vasudeva, and of course along with Hakeem and Bathiudeen. We were in fear before 2009. We were in fear in 1971. But not now. But we fear as we think of our future, and the future generations of Sinhala Buddhists and brother Hindus. We are struggling to eliminate causes of fear in the future, today.

 

Q: You had also mentioned that if the government will not address the issue of the Muslims in particular, you will take matters into your own hands. What sort of action will you take if the government remains silent on this issue?

A: Democracy will provide solutions. We are not very happy about the democratic institutions that we have. However, at the elections, the people will take matters into their own hands with votes. We are saying this not only to the government; we are saying this to the opposition as well. This is not only about extremist Muslims but extremist other groups as well.

 

Q: There have also been allegations that you had foreign funding, especially with regard to the magnitude of the Sangha convention that was held recently. How would you respond to this allegation?

A: We had said openly at the conference that we got foreign funds as Sri Lankans working abroad had funded us. Locals mainly fund us. We had lesser expenses to meet as there was no corruption. And a lot of volunteers worked as well. If the government or the UNP or NGOs had such a convention, the cost would be 20 times more. All of them calculate our expenses with their lenses.

 

Q: The government and the military have constantly maintained that there is no extremist Muslim threat to the country; yet you believe otherwise. Could you explain why?

A: The government should understand the truth and the reality. The government should feel the heartbeat of the general public. If they live in dreams, the people will soon wake up. We are there to lead this awakening of the Sinhala Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and peace-loving Muslims to build the Sinhala Buddhist state where there will be justice for all.

 

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It Is A Global Threat – Ven. Wirathu Thera

Controversial Burmese Buddhist priest, Ven. Ashin Wirathu Thera, speaking to The Sunday Leader, maintains that he does not propagate violence but he protects Buddhism against what he terms are global threats against the religion

 

By Camelia Nathaniel

Q: How do you see the Sri Lankan minority issue such as that of the extremist Muslims and the Evangelists?

A: I am here for a few days and I do not have much information to explain about the situation in Sri Lanka. But generally, all Buddhist countries face similar situations.

 

Q: There has been a lot of negative publicity behind your name. How would you explain that? 

A: That is why I am here. I was invited. Truth and publicity are not always the same. There is much information about me that is distorted. I am a very peaceful Buddhist monk who is working hard to protect Buddhism.

 

Q: What are the comparisons between Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where the threat to Buddhism is concerned?

A: Similar issues. They are global issues.

 

Q: What are the global threats to Buddhism as a whole?

A: Global finances, global media, global politics, global terrorism – promoted and managed by anti-Buddhist forces , extremists and terror groups at the same time Wrong policies and structures established by local governments under international influence.

 

Q: Buddhism is known for its tolerance but there have been reports that you propagate violence contrary to Buddhist teachings. Could you comment?

A: I or 969 do not promote violence.  All these reports are to cover the killings and wrong acts of terrorists. We follow only Buddhist principles. I am a Buddhist monk and my whole life is dedicated to protect Buddhism. It is my noble duty.

 

Q: Is there a real threat from extremist Islamic factions? If yes, how should it be tackled?

A: Of course, yes. You can see it is not only for Burma. It is a global threat. You can see how things such as killings and conversions are happening in Syria and Iraq. We have to be aware of threats – educate the people; live according to the Dhamma, and use all legal means to counter them. Strengthen all Buddhists and network with them.

14 Comments for “Religion – To Kill Or Die For?”

  1. Rogger

    hey you dumb writer,don’t give incentives for the worst barbaric cult! just see what they preach & practice 100%,
    1. “Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Koran2:191
    “Make war on the infidels(non believers of
    Islam) living in your neighborhood.” Koran 9:123
    “When opportunity arises, kill the
    infidels(non believers of Islam) wherever you catch them.” Koran 9:5
    • Qur’an:9:123 “Fight the unbelievers around you, and let them find
    harshness in you.
    “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” Koran3:85
    “The Jews and the Christians are perverts;
    fight them.”… Koran 9:30
    “Maim and crucify the infidels if they
    criticize Islam” Koran 5:33
    “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire,
    hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” Koran 22:19
    “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims
    to fight them.” Koran 8:65
    “Muslims must not take the infidels(non
    believers of Islam) as friends.” Koran 3:28
    “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures
    other than the Qur’an.” Koran 8:12
    “Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize
    the infidels(non believers of Islam).” Koran 8:60)
    *As the Muslims are allowed to lie to infidels(non Muslims) about
    anything, especially about Islam. There are two doctrines taught in the Koran
    which promote lying. One is called al taqiyya (to lie to protect one’s self
    from persecution, emotional harm or physical harm, real or perceived) and
    kitman (to spread misinformation – especially to benefit Islam and to aid its
    spread).
    This outlines the true Muslim agenda: lie when it is convenient, kill when lying fails.
    * A Muslim apostate (one who leaves the faith) must be killed. (Koran chapter 9, verse 12)
    2. Qur’an 2:193 says; “Fight them until there is no more
    Al Fitnah (‘Al Fitnah’ meant Jews and Christians at the time, but in today’s
    context the word means all religious followers including Buddhists&Hindus)
    and religion is only for Allah. And Qur’an 9:5 says; “Fight and kill the
    disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in
    wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”
    Referring to Hadith, Ishaq:324 says; “Fight them so that there is no more
    rebellion, and religion, all of it, is for Allah only. Allah must not have
    rivals.” And Ishaq:587 says; “Our onslaught will not be a weak faltering
    affair. We shall fight as long as we live. We will fight until you turn to
    Islam, humbly seeking refuge. We will fight not caring whom we meet. We will
    fight whether we destroy ancient holdings or newly gotten gains. We have
    mutilated every opponent. We have driven them violently before us at the
    command of Allah and Islam. We will fight until our religion is established.
    And we will plunder them, for they must suffer disgrace.”

  2. Lima

    SO , NO USE HIGHLIGHTING THE TWO TERROR GROUPS , KILLERS , MURDERERS , ONE FROM BURMA 969 , OTHER FROM SRI LANKA BBS , WHY YOU MEDIA KILL INNOCNENTS BY PROMOTING THESE TWO KILLER GROUPS , THE DAY WAY WILL COME , THE KILLER GROUPS WILL BE NO MORE AND WILL LIVE BELOW THE SIX FEET EARTH , WAIT AND SEE , NOBODY WILL TOLERATE , IF THESE BBS AND 969 TAKE LAW INTO THEIR HANDS , THE PUBLIC WILL TAKE THE LAW INTO ALSO TO THEIR HANDS , TIT FOR TAT , BY THAT TIME EVEN THE FORCES CANNOT TAKE SIDES , SORRY TO SAY THIS , WE CAN SENSES THESE , THE HATRED IN SRI LANKA WAS CREATED BY BBS.

    • Noel Jones

      Lima, The world famous terrorist organisation today is ISIS. And it’s killing innocent people in cold blood in Kuwait and Syria. Everybody knows it’s origin. And the other is Afgan based Al-kaida [Jihad organisation]. If anybody says Miyanmar 969 and the BBS are terrorist organisation, can you tell me the above two organisations[ISIS And Al-kaida] come under which category. Are they Compassionate Organisations?

      • Casper

        Noel, this column is not about IS or Al Qaeda it is about our country current situation, so comment on the context not rubbish.

  3. Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    As a Buddhist with Sinhalese heritage I do not feel under threat personally or otherwise and to link ones ethnicity to ones belief is preposterous. One is born with an ethnic heritage, but one has to consciously and willingly follow a faith or belief.

    There is simply no place in Buddhism for nationalism and jingoism, and Buddhism does not need ‘protection’ from other beliefs to remain the source of universal truths, for the truth will also win through eventually.

  4. Malin

    The minority religions should restrain from acting anti Buddhist activities like conversion, buying land in urban cities by rich Muslims to change the demography of the country.

  5. gamarala

    If only the Mahasangha act according to tenets laid down by the Gautama, sri lanka will become a real ‘dharmadwipa,’, as often mentioned, practising ‘pristine buddhism’.
    In the old days, senior members of the sangha travelled to Burma for “higher” ordination and accept exalted “titles” from Burmese Buddhist hierarchy.
    Wirathu by his actions,has become the very opponent of what the Buddha preached, He has no place in sri lanka,

    • tikira

      Innocent muslims are facing unnecessary problems due to this Jamilathul Uleema members, they’re a group of political catchers and opportunits, one of my Muslim friends told me that the majority of SL muslims don’t want this Jamilathul after ethnic problems in the country in the name of Islam. BBS also should behave decently without attacking the innocent muslims, if they have any problems with Jameathul Uleema settle between them. I have worked in the Middle East for some years with good muslim people, most Arabs think that Sinhalese take care of Muslim people in SL and due to this they give us lot of respect, not differentiate with any religious of other things.

  6. Noel Jones

    Freedom of religion does not mean that erecting prayer stations every where some even in Buddhist sacred areas, and in private homes etc..as they wish. Islamic’s whom minority in anywhere in the world have hidden agendas to control commercial sector by hook or by crook under the patronage of their mosque,and Moulawee’s. In our country most of the dirty business deals done by muslim’s. From narcotic business to illegal cattle business. From importing family planning equipment,injections[not for their use], spoilt or poisionous spices, to mix with food items are few of their dirty businesses.

    BBS and Rev.Wirthu preach their followers to buy their own people products, use their own brethren’s services instead of products and services provide by Islamic’s cheaply. When monks reveal their[muslim's] shady business deals and their hidden agendas, conspiracies, the media owned or funded by rich islamic extremists in middle eastern countries, and some in Western countries, attack BBS and 969 movement mercilessly. But nobody can hide the real truth. Sooner or later it comes out.

    • srilankan

      No religion teaches terrorism. That means terrorists do not have a religion. we should stand united against these people to protect our country. whether you die or I die we loose a sri lankan end of the day. say no to terrorism.

    • Casper

      in the larger world BBS and 969 is a piece of shit.

  7. Sinhala Buddhist Extremism is being practiced in Sri Lanka since 1948. I has taught to Kill Tamils and not to die for Buddhism.

    What you sow you reap. What SL sowed is what is being reaped in Myanmar by Buddhist extremists.

  8. pathma

    I am buddist and 100% peace loving. I do not see any place for hatred and terror in buddism.Buddha has acknowledged extreme tolerance and it is some what similar to the ”other cheek story ” of Jesus. Sadly this extreme tolerance is not manifested in Islam and as a result if some one says we are threatend, there is a truth in that.If one open eyes and see, the demographic changes and mushrooming mosques are visible evidence for this realistic threat. Whatever it is, other than taking measures to lookafter our own interests,there is no place for violenc or hatred for ”Us” accroding to buddist principles.May tripple gem bless you all !

  9. Chopper

    I think BBS priests who advocate such extremist policy ought to be castrated to make them docile. No other therapy would work for them to change their mindset.

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