Sri Lankan Christians criticise Mahinda Rajapaksa's hypocrisy
by Melani Manel Perera

At the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, the Sri Lankan prime minister described a reality that does not exist in the country. He failed to mention the 2019 Easter attacks and did not condemn Buddhist supremacism, which is seen by many as the main culprit of the climate of religious intolerance in the country. Last night some Sri Lankans staged a protest outside the place where the prime minister was staying demanding justice.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke yesterday at G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna (Italy), centred on “Time to Heal: Peace among Cultures, Understanding between Religions”.

Appointed in 2019 by his brother Gotabaya, Sri Lanka’s current president, the prime minister was criticised by Christian leaders for failing to highlight the real problems that affect religious coexistence in the country.

While stressing that extremist ideology represents one of the most serious global challenges, Rajapaksa did not mention the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks against three churches, and did not condemn Buddhist supremacist movements, which according to a two-year National Commission of Inquiry blamed the attacks on religious intolerance in the country.

Rajapaksa instead just hinted that education might be a solution to extremism, noting that “It is the duty of policy makers and educationists, through the curriculum and methods of teaching in our schools and universities, to emphasize what all religions share in common, the areas of consensus rather than the points reflecting differences.”

For Herman Kumara, convenor of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo, "it is hypocrisy to say something and do something else. The prime minister talks about ethnic and religious diversity at the conference but does the total opposite back home.”

The activist told AsiaNews that Sri Lankans have seen previous governments promote Buddhist supremacy while the current one has changed nothing.

"Now violent speeches are addressed against Christians and Card Malcolm Ranjith,” he explained. “If you really want peace, something should be done against the hate speech of Buddhist monks.”

Fr Rohan Silva, director of the Centre for Society and Religion, agrees. “Our prime minister spoke well of the need to reject extremism in all its forms. Unfortunately, he did not say a single word about the victims of the Easter attacks, which the government claims were perpetrated by Muslim extremist groups.”

Fr Silva has a question for Rajapaksa: “Can he confirm the suspicion that all of us have that it was the result of a 'grand conspiracy’?”

In view of this, the clergyman wants the prime minister to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry regarding extremist groups in Sri Lanka, which include banning such entities.

In Bologna, a group of Sri Lankans living in Italy protested last night near the place where Rajapaksa was staying, demanding justice for the Easter attacks. Some signs read: “Hiding the truth!” and “Who’s the evil mastermind behind [these attacks]?”

The three-day Interfaith Forum opened yesterday in Bologna’s Palazzo Re Enzo bringing together 370 people, including religious leaders, politicians, scientists and cultural activists from 70 countries, who will meet during 32 working sessions.