09/06/2007, 00.00
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Christians and Buddhists remove veil of silence, pledge inter-faith solidarity

by Melani Manel Perera
In a meeting commemorating a Buddhist monk involved in inter-faith dialogue who was killed by “person or persons unknown,” some religious leaders slam government silence over recent crimes. Participants tell population to learn how to help others irrespective of ethnic or religious differences.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – As the number of clerics who disappear increases and sectarian hatreds grow, the government does nothing despite being aware of the situation. On the contrary; not only has it failed so far to try those responsible, but has in fact tended to whitewashed many such crimes, this according to Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda, a Catholic priest, and Weligama Dhammissara Thero, a Buddhist monk.

The two men of religion spoke on Tuesday at a panel discussion commemorating the life of the Ven. Mahadivulwewa Nanda Rathana Thero, a Buddhist monk gunned down on May 13 in his temple in Mahadivulwewa, Trincomalee district.

The venerable monk, who was a staunch supporter of inter-faith dialogue, was also involved in helping the poor whatever their religion.

Since the incident Sri Lankan media has reported that Tamil Tiger rebels were responsible for the killing, but eyewitnesses said that the gunman who killed the monk spoke Sinhalese. The dead man’s relatives agree.

“There is no evidence the Tigers did it,” Rathana Thero's brother told AsiaNews. “Our people [Sinhalese○] did it.”

The meeting was attended by some 250 people, including Catholics and other Christians. But with the exception of Weligama Dhammissara Thero, no Buddhist was present, an absence that surprised the former. “The event was well advertised in town. How come no Buddhist except for me is here?” he said.

But for Father Iddamalgoda the important thing was to remember people like Nanda Rathana Thero or Fr Jim Brown, a Catholic priest who disappeared last year, so that we can “teach the population about dedicating oneself to others irrespective of ethnic or religious differences.”

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