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RELIGIONS : There are four Major religions in the world and Buddhism has helped mould our lives and our character.

We begin our day with the chanting of pirith, dhammanusasana, religious discourses, admonitions and end the day in similar fashion. This custom has now become a life pattern in Lanka, our Motherland.

No country in the world other than Sri Lanka manifest to the universe the devotion of her children to religion and practice of rituals, observances of rites related to the religions they adhere to.

If everything goes well Sri Lanka will be the 'heaven', the 'Nirvana' or the place enjoying supreme bliss being united with the 'paramathma', since all our people attend in some form or another to religious duties during their life. Mind you we miss no festival however small it is and that is the way the world sees us.

But do we really live the precepts we claim to practice and keep the promises we make in observing pansil, attending 'poya day' to the temples, or attend Sunday Mass, recite the rosary, pray aloud the Lord's prayer, 'Our Father' and go in peace as the faithful are admonished and blessed at the finale of the Holy Mass promising to serve our neighbour? Or to the Kovils and Hindu temples we attend to mark our presence at events of religious significance?

The pertinent question that comes to my mind here as I pen down my thoughts, is whether the laity and the religious leaders who preach from the dharmasanayas, or the pulpits set the example they should, or are they leading the people, their little flock astray?

I am compelled to think this way as the erudite, devoted and exemplary monks or the priests and bishops, Hindu Pusaris and Muslim Maulavis or religious dignitaries have failed to come out strongly as they should, to condemn and pronounce 'what is wrong as wrong' and speak without fear against those who commit wrong against the innocent masses. I wish I could think that they are doing their best, nay it is not that easy to think that way.

If the people as true devotees of whatever religion they adhere to and the religious dignitaries fearlessly show the way and take the lead against all forms of evil, violence and massacring of the innocent, it is my belief that things would have been very much different and better from what we see today.

Within the last two weeks, Sri Lanka witnessed the brutal killings both in the Northern part of the country and within the city walls of Colombo. Those who stood for truth, justice and fair-play have been gunned down or blasted and the threat is looming large and we cannot predict what will be in store next.

The recent past brutal killings took away the blossoming lives of the children, the lads an lasses of the 'butterfly age'. They were victims of the man's cruelty to man. What sin these children in their innocence have committed, nobody knows.

As I write I hear one more bomb explosion in Colombo on the Pakistani Independence day celebrations in Sri Lanka.

The news telecast at short intervals since the blast portrayed the incident as an attempt on the life of the outgoing Pakistani High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohommed. And the precious lives of seven including a nine year old were lost in the blast at the Kollupitiya Circular.

The teaching and the efforts of great thinkers like Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Hagal to the modern day thinkers like Karl Marx, Lenin, Jean Paul Satre, Emmanuel Kant and many others about whose work we had the fortune to read and understand comes to my mind having witnessed sordid events taking place.

It seemed that all their efforts in building a just world have gone for a six with the social upheaval we witness today. Everything has gone topsy turvy and the world seem to be crumbling down.

Sacred scriptures, the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Lord Buddha, Mohammed and other religious leaders seem to have lost their meaning and the founders of noble religions have laboured in vain and sacrificed their lives for nothing, for there are no adherents but worshippers like mere parrots who just recite stanzas, gathas or prayers without understanding them.

Looking at what is happening around us, we who highly boast of a sacrosanct culture seem to appear worse than the worst fellow in the dungeon or the gutter. We have lost our sense of value. We have lost all value for human life.

But Sri Lanka is the "Loken Uthum rata...." We Sri Lankans talk with pride of a religion that claimed to have moulded our character from the times of the kings who were devout adherents of the law of the Manu.

We say that our Constitution, the Constitution of the Social Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, source of all the laws and regulations gives the pride of place to Buddhism and it is almost the religion of the State. But let us peruse through the history.

We find the law of the land reigned supreme and justice was done during the times of the 'Rajanduwa' and 'Sinhala neethiya' was the best as Knox once wrote that a young lass, a virgin could walk through streets safely at any time without fear.

It was the strict observance of the Law that ensured that safety. Everyone was equal before the law in the word and the spirit.

It is sad, a nation with a history we could have just pride in and proclaiming to be the adherents of the noble teachings of the world religions have come to a state where killing has become a 'game of the child'. It is not enough to have or belonged to a religion if one can not live up to the spirit of that religion.

It is pointless and a waste of colossal sums of money to have a Ministry for Religious Affairs, if the people do not live with their religion and are letting the valuable and hard earned money go down the drain.

It is far better not to have a Ministry for Religious Affairs than having one which has no meaning or that creates no impact on society as a whole.

It is high time that the Minister in charge of Religious Affairs look seriously to the constantly recurring events around us and call for a meeting of the Heads of All Religions in the country and seek their advice as to what should be done to bring back man to his senses and who has lost his way.

Minister Tissa Karaliyadde who dwells in the shadows of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura has a greater responsibility to bear at this critical hour of our history.

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