Society

Sujeewani’s Story Race Is Not the Stick by Which We Measure Life

HIRAN PRIYANKARA JAYASINGHE

“Religion teaches us that the value of life cannot be swayed by race.”
Sujewani Chandima of the Thummodara Mallakele settlement attempts to spread the message that this truth is relevant even today.

On the 13th of May, not close to a month after the Easter Sunday Attacks, A group of nearly 500 youth stormed Naththandiya town. As dusk settled, violence ensued, and the properties of the Muslim communities were vandalized, destruction continuing on to the Thummodara Mallakele settlement. Unarmed civilians were hiding in shock unsure about how to deal with the situation.

Sujewani, who had been considering previously how to safeguard her Muslim friends from extremists in the face of such a series of incidents, took a decision and went to the garden through her front door of the house and into the midst of mob in her village. She saw poles, steel pipes and swords in the hands of the youth destroying the homes of the Muslims of her village. She mustered courage and shouted, “These are houses of our people, don’t destroy them”. The couragous voice of this brave woman made them cease in their destruction and disperse, saving the three homes and fourteen family members.

“When I was coming back from Kottaranmulla on the 13th, I saw a large number of people storming in. They were destroying the properties of Muslims in the town. I thought they would storm into the Mallakele settlement. I have Muslims living around my house. We are around them every day and they are good people”.

Sujewani Chandima recalls with happiness, “I hurried and told everyone to gather their valuables and hide. A few minutes later, the  group surrounded our village and came forward destroying Muslim houses. Before that group arrived I had hidden the inhabitants of three homes in my own house. I took measures to prevent any damages to those three houses”

64 year old A. K. Halima Bibi still cannot believe what has happened.“Sujewani lives in front of my house. She came shouting from the road side and asked me to hide inside her house. I could not understand what was going to happen. After few minutes our village was surrounded by a mob of over 500,” she recalls with fear in her eyes.

Sujewani’s actions were not met with praise, instead the extremist in the community found fault with her for taking a stand.  This backlash made her uncomfortable with speaking to the media on her story. Halima was similarly blamed for taking refuge in the house of a Sinhalese to save her own life and property. Regardless, she is thankful that a fellow human being put herself at risk to protect the lives and property of her neighbors.

This article was originally published on the catamaran.com

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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