Peace

The Reality of Reconciliation in the Face of Disaster

Nimal Abeysinghe

There is no other law more powerful than nature to teach lessons to humankind. Nature’s lessons come in the form of disasters such as diseases, floods, and droughts. Nature affects everyone equally, without a religious or racial difference.

The closest and best example for this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which we are experiencing now. Covid-19 originated in the city of Wuhan (China) and spread lightning-fast, first in China and then worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of people died and are still dying all over the world due to the pandemic.

The pandemic is severe even in Sri Lanka. There are no age, gender, racial, religious, or caste discriminations when it comes to the disease. We have to understand that simple truth. We can observe something especially when we look at Sri Lanka during the pandemic; apparently, publishing hate speech that goes against peace and reconciliation, especially through social media, almost stopped. Persons who published and supported them have disappeared.

When we look at the modern history of Sri Lanka, we suffered a 30-year-long civil war. There was a massive opposition against Tamils at that time. Humanity was just a word and qualities like anger, hatred, and intolerance of each other, suppressing good qualities such as peace and reconciliation that every religion taught. Such evil sentiments, which subdued after the war, later re-emerged in different forms. Muslims were the primary target of new racial sentiments. The baseless allegations regarding Kottu Roti and women’s underwear containing medication that can make humans infertile insulted humanity.

There are a few people in any society who are against peace and reconciliation. Even though they are few, their impact on society is huge because many people are compelled to believe lies without any criticism. Educated people are also attracted easily to extremist views, and they too are urged to act unwisely. That is a massive obstacle to peace and ethnic reconciliation. So we need to overcome the obstacle.

Doesn’t the pandemic create a situation that can augment the reconciliation efforts?  

It is essential to look at the background of the country before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Most of the population wasted time engaging in meaningless conversations. Lies, scams, deception, hate speech, and disruptive acts against reconciliation were given an extreme value in society. Lying was glorified to such a level that it was the profession of a wide section of society from politicians to the ordinary citizens of the country. From the artist to the audience, the entertainment was based on falsehood. Lies ruled every media publication. You will quickly understand this when you leisurely contemplate the situation. On the other hand, we need to remember that those lies are still happening more or less.

Wasn’t cheap humour, shameless accents, and hate speech common before the coronavirus pandemic? Wasn’t social media the most influential media for the publication of this content? However, the rulers are trying to take actions that cause more hatred among the communities. It seems that the artists of either Sinhala or any other ethnicity who stand for the truth are arrested to achieve their goals by generating hate between ethnicities. Muslim marriage law, an incident related to the late governor Hizbullah, Governor Asad Sali’s statement, and the statement on passing an act prohibiting the Burka by Minister Sarath Weerasekara hit the headlines in mainstream media as well as social media. There is no doubt that politicians must be punished if they have done something wrong, but it is necessary to understand the irony of these incidents. There is a truth that the community needs to understand, which came with the Coronavirus pandemic. It is that death treats everyone equally without any differences. On the doorstep of death, there’s no value for your passionate belongings. You have to leave them all.

On the other hand, none can challenge death. Even though it is an eternal truth, humankind never understands it. They ignore that eternal truth and propagate hatred and violence in society.

The death lists are not categorized as Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, etc. Dead bodies have no race. 

In this reality, the whole community needs to understand whether we need to divide as ethnicities, religions, castes, or even nations. Isn’t the absolute truth the whole community needs to pay attention from this moment is that we must value peace and coexistence?      

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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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