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Destabilising religion, demeaning spiritual and cultural values

In the past it was the Catholic belief that Christianity was the only true and revealed religion and all the other faiths were pagan and heathen.

The Catholic Church adopted a policy to convert people to Christianity at any cost and it persecuted non-Christians. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II, publicly apologised for the misdeeds committed by Church in the name of religion.

The Vatican Council II (1962-65) reversed attitude of the Catholic Church towards other religions. It directed that Catholics should acknowledge the Truth inherent in them and the values in their society and culture. Nevertheless it did not give a licence to sacrifice the Christian doctrine.

By the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, the Vatican Council II, itself renewed the call for evangelisation. In fact the Catholic Church is looking for ways and means to convert people of Asia to Christianity in the 21st century as the Catholic faith is not so prevalent in the region.


The Church is a place consecrated to God

The Catholic Church still believes that God has made Christ as the one mediator and she herself has been established as the universal sacrament of salvation. (Redemptoris Missio - 9)

Saintliness

In an article titled ‘The Saintliness of Buddha’ written by a Catholic priest that appeared in the ‘Catholic Messenger’ on May 7, 2006, it is emphasised that the Catholic Church at one time has considered the Buddha as a Saint called St. Josaphat.

He also extols that the Medieval Church has treated the Buddha as a Saint, because his renunciation of the royal household was an exemplary Christian virtue.

The Buddha denied an omnipotent God, the creation and a soul. It is a wonder how such a personality could ever have been considered a Saint by the Catholic Church and for that matter how a Catholic priest who has faith in an almighty God could endorse it by drawing a parallel between Buddhism and Christianity. It is not only an insult to almighty God but also an insult to the Buddha as it makes him subservient to a God!

In-Roads

It is revealed in the 2006 Vesak issue of the ‘Dhamsara’ journal, the methods adopted by some Catholic circles to make in-roads into Buddhism as disclosed in the book ‘Catholic Plot Against Buddhism’ published in Thailand. Catholic priests learning Buddhism even better than the Buddhist Bhikkus, equating God to Buddhist concept of Dhamma, giving a Catholic outlook to Buddhist meditation and a Catholic colouring to national festivals are some of them.

Similar devices are being adopted by some Catholic clergy in Sri Lanka as well. There are some Catholic priests who are funded by foreign agencies, who used to place the picture of Christ on one side and that of the Buddha on the other advocating Buddhism and Christianity which are poles apart as parallel religions.

There are others who introduce Buddhist rituals to churches in festivals like Vesak. There are also some Catholic priests who suggest to celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year and Easter together so as to give a Catholic colouring to the New Year festival.

It is one thing for people of different faiths to work together for the common good while maintaining their religious identity. We Catholics could extend our goodwill for religious activities of the adherents of other religions. Catholics organising Vesak Dansalas in church premises could be appreciated. But we ought to know where to draw the line.

One year the Buddha walking on Lotus flowers at his birth was depicted in the premises of a Catholic Church. In another year a Buddhist Bhikku preached Bana for Vesak in a church.

The following year a statue of the Buddha was placed in the same church premises and a pandal was erected for Vesak. In another year it was reported that there was a Bhakthi Gee recital in that church premises. In some churches Vesak lanterns are hung and illuminated.

The Church is a place consecrated to God. There is Hol Eucharist in the church and we Catholics believe that God is present there. According to Buddhism the Buddha is not a God but an enlightened human being. Adoring a human being in churches would amount to sacrilege from the Christian point of view and a big joke as well. Recently celebrating Vesak in churches was criticised in a popular column in a Sunday Sinhala journal.

Suspicion

This type of deception would demean Christianity and arouse the suspicion of intelligent Buddhists. It would confuse the young Catholics in their formative years and would mislead the ignorant.

Another Catholic priest has stated thus to a Sinhala Sunday journal. “In ten years to come, people would not be divided as Buddhists, Christians Muslims and Hindus. All could go to Sri Maha Bodhi, Nallur Temple, Tewatta Church and meditate. Spirituality would take the place of religions.” (Lakbima Irida Sangrahaya May 16, 2004). This sounds a hidden agenda. If this were to happen, it would be the downfall of all the religions, specially Buddhism, the religion of about 70 per cent in Sri Lanka.

Vociferous

The veteran writer and social analyst W.A. Abeysinghe has remarked that the designs of some NGO’s to mix up religions and create a hotchpotch would lead to the destruction of Buddhism. That would lead to the destruction of Christianity as well. In fact some of the Maha Sangha who have been vociferous in protecting the religion, spiritual values and our culture has been silenced by drawing them to various inter-religious forums.

Another Buddhist writer vividly portrays a conspiracy against Buddhism. “Some Church sects under the pretext of Seminars take our young men and women - even some Maha Sangha to foreign lands to lead them astray.

They are provided with sumptuous meals and whisky, dollar notes emanating fragrance and friendship of both males and females. Once you attend them - with all the inducements, who is the soul who would resist the invitation for the next trip?” (Dr. Harischandra Wijayatunga; Mara Sengage Saha Devadattayange Weda (2003) page 22)

There are some foreign agencies that drill the Western concepts of morality to the minds of people. They propagate ideas that lead to sexual promiscuity. They encourage homosexuality, lesbianism, free sex and obscene cinema.

Although the people in the West are advanced in science and technology, they are not serious about religion. In Europe most of them are nominal Christians. In Catholic countries in the West Only 10 per cent seem to practice the religion and churches are empty even on Sundays. However they spend lavishly to propagate Christianity because that in one way of keeping people loyal to the West.

Besides morality is at a very low ebb in Europe. Although Christianity insists on a monogamous marriage, you get more divorces in the Christian West than in this region. In Europe married couples living in adultery is not taken seriously and family ties are at loose. The moral standards in the West have come down to such a low level that even in some Catholic countries you get swimming pools where both men and women together step in to them fully naked.

Spirituality

In Sri Lanka the morality is not so degenerated as in Europe because spirituality is ingrained in the lives of people. Adultery is shunned and looked down upon in our country. As a result there is more stability in family life. Even among the Catholics in our country moral standards have not so deteriorated to such a low level as those in the West. This is because the religion is more earnestly practised here in accordance with the cultural milieu in this region.

In these circumstances it is time for the Catholic hierarchy in Sri Lanka to put an end to various gimmicks that demean the religion. The adherents of other religions too, specially the Buddhists should guard against various agencies who with friendly overtones try to destabilise the religion.

(The writer is a former High Court Judge and Vice-President of the Newman Society Alumni Association)

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