Monday, March 31, 2008

mixing religion and politics

There is no smoke without fire. Recently the earlier furor over the anti-conversion bill has surfaced again, This time over the methods used by some fundamentalist groups doggedly trying to get converts to enhance their personal standing and sometimes pocketbooks and wallets.

To be fair the Sri Lankan Buddhists have been remarkably tolerant of other religions, as Buddhism in its purest forms encourages people to live peacefully in harmony with their surroundings, not taking any more than they can put back. Most people practicing Buddhism are so far removed from what is expected, other religious persuasions live a more Buddhist life than the Buddhists themselves, and therefore do not come into conflict with the purest sense of the practice, except for the belief in Gods that many Buddhists also despite protestations to the contrary, also practice.

Coming back to the issue at hand, we should not use people who are most vulnerable, in their state of despair to get them to change faiths, This practice is not just and no religion will condone it. Sinhala and Buddhism gets mixed in this formula as for some unknown reason, many of the Sinhala people don’t help each other, and in more senses than one put down their own people who succeed in life. Given that sad element of reality, some conversions take place with the promise of help, with loans, some underwritten by foreign NGOs and a sense of self-help as part of the religious practice. So the convert is told that if they belong to this church, not only will they pray together, but their life is part of the family of the church and will help when needed, just as they would be called upon to help others in their times of need. With this in mind, socializing, sometimes the job or business is done with and through others in the community of the church, and gives a convert who all this time only had grief with his village including the immediate family a new outlook and optimism that had hitherto been absent.

The anti conversionists, some rabid monks amongst them should realize this reality and address the core issues of why, instead of making laws affecting people’s religious freedom and fundamental rights.

I will be referring to this same theme on numerous subjects, namely; ‘once the problem has occurred, we try to patch it up by rules, rather than address the root causes’.

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