Along with printed and bound copies of the over 1,400 comments in Tamil, Sinhala and English generated by Not In Our Name (coming to over 300 pages), the following letter was penned and delivered to the Presidential Secretariat  late last week, with copies to relevant Government Departments and the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu Chapter, Ven. Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero.

Not In Our Name‘s comments and signatories are archived in full online. PDFs for printing can be accessed online and downloaded from here.

Update: On 25th July 2012, we received this response from the Presidential Secretariat.

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4 July 2011

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
‘Temple Trees’
Colombo 3
Sri Lanka

Your Excellency,

You will recall that on 20th April 2012, when you were on an official visit to South Korea, a violent group of around 2,000, led by the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu Chapter Ven. Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero and other Buddhist monks, stormed into a mosque in the historical city of Dambulla. The resulting verbal and physical violence was so bad that Friday prayers had to be cancelled. This was an unprecedented development in our country.

A week later, there were calls to violent reprisals by sections of the Muslim community after Jumma. Extremist voices within the Sinhala Buddhist community, with inflammatory statements, added to the tension. Groundviews, an online citizen journalism initiative institutionally anchored to the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), features an extensive archive and discussion of this disturbing content, including media footage of the violence broadcast locally and also widely discussed, with great concern and dismay, internationally.

Deeply concerned the violence would spiral completely out of hand, on 26th April, Sanjana Hattotuwa, founding Editor of Groundviews set up Not In Our Name, an online initiative to collect signatures and comments against religious extremism in our country. The initiative ran till the end of May, and collected more than 1,400 signatures and comments.

The names of those who signed up and their comments are archived online for posterity and public perusal. Prominent Sri Lankans as well as ordinary citizens and those from the diaspora left compelling comments that ranged in tone from outrage to sorrow, noting inter alia that violence in the name of Buddhism seriously risked our country’s post-war potential, to which both you and your government remain committed to. The comments submitted over five weeks are too rich and varied to capture in abbreviated form, though a few notable ones in English alone are flagged on the website itself.

Sadly however, even during the time the campaign was active, media reports on 30th May noted that around 200 demonstrators led by several dozen Buddhist monks allegedly converged on the small Islamic centre in Dehiwela and began throwing stones and rotten meat over the gate at the mosque.

Dambulla and Dehiwela demonstrate disturbing developments that if unchecked and allowed to grow, risk much you and your government have fought for. One does not need to go further than the moving, insightful sentiments captured in Not In Our Name – including by many who are Sinhala Buddhists and are also staunch supporters of your government – to realise how worried many citizens are about this violent trend.

We hope you take the time to read some of the comments in English, Tamil and Sinhala and inspired by what so many have expressed, use the power vested in your office to unequivocally and publicly condemn religious extremism, especially in the name of Buddhism, and strengthen a culture of tolerance in our country.

Yours truly,

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives

Sanjana Hattotuwa
Senior Researcher and Founding Editor, Groundviews

CC:

  1. Prime Minister’s Office
  2. Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu Chapter Ven. Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero
  3. Ministry of Religious Affairs & Moral Upliftment
  4. Department of Buddhist Affairs
  5. Department of Christian Religious Affairs,
  6. Department of Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs
  7. Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs
  • mayasl

    Good job Groundviews.

  • Minority

    The silence of right thinking people, minding their own business, provides an enabling environment for extremists and hypocrites to do their unholy acts. Today crime and lawlessness is on the rise and sooner or later the affects will touch our lives as well. True religon does not support thuggery and violence. Racism in the garb of religon is an insidious enemy that eats into the moral fabric of society.

    I pay tribute to all those who speak on behalf of the rights of those other than their own. When a limb is injured the rest of the body feels the pain. Such must be our feelings and empathy to unite and form a strong Nation.

  • Nazafi

    Thank you Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu for taking such an amazing step on the current situation. Every single citizen think and pray for the peace. only very few are willing to earn with these kinds of situations. on face book it self if you have notices sorry.com and few other group which lead by few racists are publishing such a powerful and scary false information tothe society. As a citizen of Sri Lanka i believe this is not a healthy movement. Which could lead to another dark era of Sri Lanka. As a citizen My self and I guess so many others trying to educate our own communities not to act on racism and trying to protect the peace. What you have done is giving every single one of us who is trying hard keep the peace a boost. Please do follow on this matter. Thank You.

  • truth&peace

    good effort by groundviews. cause of racism and who is behind all theses acts also need to be identified. this is such an effort

    http://causeandthecureforracism.blogspot.com/

    • Minority

      I agree with your views but not so sure how we could educate people to think more openly and inclusivly. We are up against vested interests who promote racism as a cure for all the ills facing the country.
      Indoctrination of children commences during the formative years.

      Nevertheless there is a need for such efforts and maybe mature educated people will sign on and help promote such efforts. I think organisations such as the Assembly of Religons could play a more active role in promoting peace between religons. http://www.dailynews.lk/2006/09/07/news32.asp
      http://www.vivalanka.com/news/page.jsp?articleid=151134

      • truth&peace

        government should play a responsible role to promote peace and should not side anyone with vested motives. such an approach will help to form the foundation to bring up religious tolerance in the country.

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Thanks you Groundviews. Timely and respectful letter of appeal. I hope the President will respond positively and with compassion to calm the fears of members of all religions.

  • Andrea Rogers

    I support the efforts of Groundviews Not in Our Name – let all those of different religions live in peace. To me no one religion is better than another. People choose the one that works for them. Too much violence has been perpetrated in the name of religion.

  • I congratulate groundviews for making this remarkable effort to draw the attention of the government to the dangers of allowing the current trend of religious intolerance to prolifer and get out of control.
    The government that Sri Lanka has today is the most powerful one since independence. Mahinda Rajapakse’s victory, rightly or wrongly, over the LTTE made him a hero to a large majority of the people of this country. This has provided him with the opportunity to make use of his popularity and power to lead the nation on the proper path and get rid of undesirable trends, that any right thinking man could see as matters that would eventually lead Sri Lanka to becoming an undemocractic country with its people divided into the privileged and oppressed races. He has undisputed power to make a determined effort to unite everyone in this plural society and forge a truly united nation. Unfortunately, knowingly or unknowingly, the government has and is committing various actions which has and is alienating those not belonging to the majority community and following Buddhism and fostering chauvinism. These actions have widened the gap that existed between the various races and those following the various religions in Sri Lanka.
    The expectation that with the end of the war a determined effort would be made by the government to bring about a reconciliation between the various communities has become a mirage. The sparodic incidents that smack of religious and communal intolerance which government appears to condone rather than condemn have been occuring from time to time. No serious efforts have been taken to bring to book the perpetrators. This tendency only paves the way for more such incidents to be communitted with impunity. Undoubtedly this tendency does not augur well for the future of this country.
    Let us hope that the efforts that groundviews and all right thinking people are taking to stem this trend do not become fruitless.

    • Thank you. A point of clarification – Not In Our Name features comments on over 1,400 individuals – it is not for CPA or Groundviews to take sole credit for these moving, courageous and inspiring sentiments. The true value is in the capture of progressive public sentiment, for posterity.

  • P.L.J.B.Palipana

    I was born in Matale. My relatives there told me that this monk is a buisinessman and the dispute was generated by a buisiness rivalry. The first thing Hon.MR had to do was disrobing this monk and keep him to do his day today buisiness. I remember the Kandalama incident too.There are vast amount of like minded monks and they are destroying the image of our country Nationally & Internationally.We have to leave a build-up generation for the young people anda Secular State is the only answer.Hindu, Muslim and Catholic priest are not engaged in Politics and those Buddhist monks are dividing the country politically and morally.Really they are laymen with yellow robes. Very sad indeed!!!