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Monday, June 17, 2024

In Response to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith A Group of Catholics Calls For Secular Sri Lanka

(Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith politically was close to former Prez Rajapaksa)

A secular Sri Lanka will promote religious harmony & help us to be more religious.
(Statement by group of Sri Lankan Catholics – 3rd August 2016).

As Catholic Clergy, Religious and laity from different Catholic dioceses and different Religious congregations from different parts of Sri Lanka, it is our view that Sri Lanka should be a secular state that recognizes, promotes and protects all universally recognized human rights.

To us, a secular state is one that doesn’t give foremost place, prominence and privileges to one religion, constitutionally or in practice. In our view, such a secular state will enable individuals and communities to be more religious and spiritual and will also promote harmony and co-existence amongst different religious communities. It will strengthen right of freedom of religion of all individuals and communities.

While we recognize the historical and present day contributions of all religions to the country and its peoples,we are also conscious of attacks, restrictions and variety of problems faced by the numerically smaller religious and ethnic communities, at the hands of the Sinhalese – Buddhist dominated Sri Lankan state and majority communities. Constitutional provisions are one of the important means of protecting rights of numerical minorities.

To have a secular state, article 9 of the present constitution that says “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give Buddhism the foremost place” must be done away. To us, this clause appears to be a contradiction to article 12 (2) of the present constitution which states that “no citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any such grounds”.
In this regard, we endorse the statement in the 2013 “Pastoral letter” by all the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka that stated that “Sri Lanka should shed all those clauses or conditions in its constitution that could be interpreted or read to justify different forms of discrimination against its people”.1

It’s in this context that we note with concern, and reject the recent statement of the Archbishop of Colombo,  Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, saying that he doesn’t recognize the concept of a secular state. 2

We are also concerned about the Cardinal’s statement implying that human rights are a western idea imposed on us, and that it can destroy our cultural heritage3 . It is our firm conviction that human rights are universal and captures the teachings of Christianity and other religious and spiritual traditions about human dignity, equality, value of life etc. During times when Church leadership has been blind and deaf to biblical and church teaching on human rights, we recognize and appreciate the role social movements and secular institutions such as the UN has played in awakening us to our vocation to promote and protect human rights.

While we welcome Cardinal’s commitment to work together with Buddhists, we underline that such collaboration must be not to discriminate and suppress numerical minorities, but rather, to promote and protect human rights of all, especially of numerical minorities.

To our knowledge, Cardinal’s statement has been made without consultation and thus, it may not even represent the views of Catholics of the Colombo Archdiocese. At the moment, Cardinal Ranjith is the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka, which historically has been a position rotated on a regular basis, amongst the different Bishops who are members of the conference. But it should be noted that the Archbishop of Colombo doesn’t represent or lead in anyway the other 11 Catholic dioceses in Sri Lanka which are headed by their own Bishops. There are also many Catholic Religious Congregations in Sri Lanka which the Archbishop doesn’t represent. For all purposes, this appears to be a personal statement of the Cardinal and not of the Catholics in Sri Lanka.

We reiterate that as Catholics, we recognize the relevance and applicability of universally recognized human rights to Sri Lanka and fundamental vocation of all Catholics, along with all others, to protect and promote human rights. We also commit ourselves to secular Sri Lanka, which in practice and in its constitution, will not give foremost place, prominence or privilege to any religion, but rather will recognize and promote rights of all persons and communities to have a religion of his or her choice or not to have a religion.

1 http://www.archdioceseofcolombo.com/uploads_local/bishops_confernce/pastoral_letter/pastoral_e.pdf
(paragraph 14, opening line)
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4svw4cLPIio (1:23 – 1:30)
3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4svw4cLPIio (1:45 – 2:17)
Names of the signatories:
1. Ms. Amali Perera
2. Rev. Fr. Ananda Fernando
3. Mr. Anthony Jesudasan
4. Mr. Aruna Roshantha
5. Rev. Sr. Beatrice Fernando
6. Mrs. Beatrice I. Fernando
7. Mr. Canicious Fernando
8. Mrs. Christine Perera
9. Ms. Deanne Uyangoda
10. Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando,
11. Mr. Dencil Perera
12. Dharshani Alles SFO
13. Rev. Fr. Edward S. C.
14. Mrs. Erin Perera
15. Mr. Ervin Perera
16. Rev. Sr. Ethal Fernando
17. Mrs. Ethal Perera
18. Mr. Evole F. Perera
19. Rev. Sr. Eymard Fernando
20. Rev. Fr. F. J.Gnanaraj
21. Mr. Francis Perera
22. Mr. Francis Rajan
23. Mrs. Gertrude Perera
24. Ms. Githika Perera
25. Rev. Fr. Godfrey Fernando
26. Mr. Gration Fernando
27. Mr. Herman Kumara
28. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
29. Mr. Joe William
30. Mr. Jude Fernando
31. Mr. K. Chandra Perera
32. Mr. K.J. Brito Fernando
33. Mr. Kamal Perera
34. Ms. Kanchana Kumari
35. Mrs. Kanthi Perera
36. Mrs. Lakmali Maheshika
37. Mr. Lal Luxman
38. Mrs. Lasanthi Perera
39. Mrs. Laveena Hasanthi
40. Mr. Loyal Fernando
41. Mrs. Lucilda Perera
42. Ms. Lucille Abeykoon
43. Rev. Sr. Mahesh Fenando
44. Mr. Mahinda Namal
45. Mrs. Mallika Perera
46. Mrs. Maria Modwin
47. Ms. Marian Fernando
48. Ms. Marisa De Silva
49. Mrs. Mary Carmel
50. Ms. Melani Manel Perera
51. Mrs. Manel Perera
52. Mr. Meril Fernando
53. Rev. Sr. Milburga Fernando
54. Ms. Monica Alfred
55. Rev. Fr. Nandana
56. Rev. Sr. Nichola
57. Mrs. Nilangani Silva
58. Mr. Nimal Fernando
59. Mr. Nimal I. Perera
60. Mr. Nilshan Fonseka
61. Mrs. Nirmalee Perera
62. Sr. Noel Christine Fernando
63. Mrs. Olivia Fernando
64. Rev. Fr. Oswald Firth, OMI
65. Mr. Philip Setunga
66. Rev. Sr. Plasida
67. Mr. Pradeep Laksiri
68. Mr. Prashan Perera
69. Mrs. Princy Perera
70. Mr. Priyankara Costa
71. Mr. Priyantha Perera
72. Ms. Pujani Ramaara
73. Rev. Fr. R. Augustine
74. Mr. Ranjith Fernando
75. Sr. Rasika Peiris, HF
76. Rev. Fr. Ravichandran
77. Mrs. Reeta Maheshwari
78. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton
79. Mrs. Rose Verginia
80. Mr. Ruki Fernando
81. Mr. Sanjeewa Fernando
82. Rev. Fr. Sarath
83. Mrs. Shankala Cooray
84. Mrs. Shanthini Fernando
85. Rev. Sr. Shanthini Fernando
86. Rev. Fr. Sherard
87. Mrs. Shirani Cooray
88. Dr. Shirley Wijesinghe
89. Mr. Shivantha Cooray
90. Mr. Stanly Perera
91. Rev. Bro. Stanley Perera
92. Mr. Sunil Perera
93. Mr. Suren D. Perera
94. Rev. Sr. Sylvia Callen
95. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
96. Fr.V. Yogeswaran, S.J.
97. Rev. Sr. Vijaya
98. Mr. Vincent Fernando
99. Ms. Winifrida Fernando


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