Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka has come to a stand still to celebrate Vesak, the principal Buddhist Holiday, but the war wages on inflicting a growing number of victims. On May 8th and 9th, liquor stores, gaming halls and butchers remained closed to observe fasting as required by the feast of Buddha Gôtama’s birth, the enlightenment and passing away.
As wanted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Vesak is being celebrated under the patronage of the state and has become a national holiday. Opening two days of celebration the in Colombo, the head of state said that “The Buddhist doctrine paves the way for a new Sri Lanka.”.
All of the main cities in the south of the Island celebrated the feat for he first time in over 30 years, there were celebrations even in the Jaffna Peninsula and Kilinochchi (see photo), in the far north, under Tamil Tiger rebel control until a few months ago.
Anglicans, Catholics and even Buddhists are critical of the emphasis placed by the government on the holiday. AsiaNews sources, who prefer to remain anonymous, ask “the situation of the thousands of civilians trapped or victims of the war in the North make it impossible to celebrate the real meaning of the feast of Vesak”. For them Buddhism universal message of peace cannot be celebrated by “forgetting the thousands of dead and displaced”.
The Buddhist monks have also come under fire for having “betrayed the teachings of the religion” and of “contributing, together with the politicians, to the disappearance of Buddhist teachings from society”.
But May 8th and 9th was also marked by news of fresh victims in the no fire zone. Gordon Weiss, UN spokesperson in Colombo, confirms that this weekend alone more then 100 children were killed in clashes between the army and LTTE rebel forces. “Such large scale killings of civilians – said Weiss – shows that the feared bloodbath has become a reality”.