Sri Lanka’s bishops urge politicians to save nation from being a failed state
By Robin Gomes
As Sri Lanka continues to sink hopelessly into the worst economic crisis in memory, the country’s Catholic Bishops are calling for unity among politicians to save the nation from becoming a failed state.
Worst economic crisis
The country of some 22 million is facing its worst economic nightmare since its independence, with foreign exchange reserves falling abysmally by 70% in the past two years. This has left the country struggling to import essential goods, such as food, fuel, cooking gas and medicine, and is causing power cuts of up to 13 hours a day. The devaluation of its currency has sent inflation soaring to 17.5 per cent in February, the highest so far, hitting the already struggling businesses and exporters but especially the people.
'No' to blame game
“All successive governments to date are responsible in varying degrees for the present state of affairs," the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka (CBCSL) said in a statement, adding that "the present government as well as those in the opposition ... must adopt a conciliatory not a confrontational approach” and they should not “play the blame game.”
“The country is fast approaching the precipice of a failed state that will in its wake inflict irreversible injuries on the people," the bishops warned, calling on their faithful and Church institutions to come to the aid of the most vulnerable and affected groups.
Vested political interests
Earlier on Sunday, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo also raised his voice blaming the desperate situation on the nation’s leaders and the people who chose them, and calling on all for a conversion of heart.
"Today’s dramatic and almost hopeless situation is a result of a series of seriously flawed choices made not only by our political leaders all along these years, but also by us citizens who have allowed ourselves to be used by vested political and cultural interests in choosing the persons to whom we have entrusted the country and its destiny over all these years,” the cardinal said on Sunday during a celebration at the Anglican Cathedral of the Christ the Living Saviour in the Sri Lankan capital.
Reflecting on the country’s situation in the backdrop of Sunday’s Gospel reading on the Prodigal Son, he lamented that over the past 75 years, the country has “continued to slide down to retrograde journey, moving from good to bad”, while other less fortunate or less developed nations in Asia have moved forward.
Call to conversion
“The country, today, is in a serious moral, political and economic and social crisis, attributable to a series of political choices made during this post-independence era, subservient to a narrow-minded vision concerning the new nation,” the 74-year-old cardinal said, inviting all to the conversion of heart.
“Over and above the subject of individual conversion in the context of the actual situation of our beloved motherland, we too need a national conversion or a new beginning as a nation.” Like the Prodigal Son, he said, “we need to come to our senses, understand that we have made mistakes, that a new beginning or a national conversion is very much needed”, without blaming one another.
“All of us are in the same boat. Are we going to sink?” he said, “is the question we have to ask ourselves”. The Archbishop of Colombo said this needs the Lord’s assistance “to usher in an era of social transformation, unity, transparent honesty, equality and the rule of law a deep sense of concern for our beloved motherland and its people, especially the poor and the suffering masses”.