An Easter of Justice

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 “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all,”

—Galatians 6:9-10

This was Pope Francis’ call in his message for Lent this year. The call is to, “Sow seeds of goodness for the benefit of others,” and is it not a coincidence to see people sowing seeds of goodness this Easter? Yet again, we go back to celebrate a god-become-man who sacrificed his life over 2,000 years ago, so that people are granted their salvation. So that people are saved. It is on such a Sunday that Jesus defeated sin and death. Sadly, for us that battle is yet to be won here in physical terms. 

Of late, the general public in Sri Lanka has sacrificed a lot. As the biggest sacrifice for power hungry Sri Lankan politicians, many unsuspected innocent lives were destroyed. More importantly, this Easter fell like a shadow of that sacrificial Easter Sunday where hundreds of people were knowingly massacred. People have waited and waited, requested and appealed and yet the victims or their loved ones have not received justice. Are we to draw a parallel between the Exodus of the Old Testament where the Pharaoh was punished by one plague after the other? It is all great for us to think in different ways but for the victims and survivors of Easter Sunday attacks it is nothing but, “Justice denied when justice is delayed.” 

A new ray of hope

We spoke to Fr. Ravin S. Perera the Parish Priest at St. Francis Xavier Church in Halpe. He had nothing to say about legal or judicial justice. It is almost as if hopes are long lost. However, he did not forget to add, “The victims are somewhat hopeful and happy because of this huge turnover which has taken place. It is almost as if they feel that God has heard their pleas. They were sobbing, wailing and asking who and why. Now, the time is up. Call it natural forces in the guise of God, faithful prayers are answered and things are getting exposed,” said Fr. Ravin. It looks like we actually had to wait for divine intervention. Usually, you are supposed to meet God halfway. Do your part of the job and the rest would be taken care of by the divine force was always the teaching. But this time, when that part has been long neglected, after years of waiting, maybe we are receiving the wrath of God, the fury of nature and finally the reflection of our own cruelty. That is why there seems to be no doubt.

 “The Cardinal never even asked for punishments. He asked God to show us who is guilty of this crime. We also needed the answer to ‘why’ they did this. Now, everything is getting proven.” Fr. Ravin brought to light how everyone is now agreeing with the fact that this is a curse. “The monks said so, the Kurukkals said so. All the religious leaders say so. Even the money which was donated to the victims of the Easter attacks was kept by those in power. How you killed people and how the sanction of your present power was signed by the blood of innocent people, is getting exposed by God.”  Fr. Ravin added, how Jesus said, “What you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me.” If you do something, you will get its due result.

This Easter seems to be one where God has not chosen to be silent anymore. The heart of Christianity is the resurrected Jesus. You cannot kill God. But the cheapest and the most sinful of all aspects must be using God to create unrest, spread fear and destroy lives in the name of God. If one thinks such acts would go unnoticed, it would either be the arrogance of their ignorance or the lawless fearlessness and greed for power. Starting from Ash Wednesday, Christians start with choosing repentance and choosing life. In the Holy Week, how Jesus died and brought new life and a new creation becomes their reflection.  

No trust in the judicial system

Fr. Cyril Gamini, Chief Editor of Gnanartha Pradeepaya is one person with a lot of experience and understanding of the catechism. He has been quite a warrior in the people’s quest, headed by the Cardinal. Fr. Cyril has been bold and vocal about the most crushing period of Sri Lankan Christians after the devastating attack on those innocent people and children who went to church on Easter Sunday, three years ago. That is how pathetic it sounds. As a country which has experienced and lived with doubts and fears of war, if somebody was caught in a blast, each one knew who was responsible and what the reason was. But to this date we do not know any of that.

We celebrated yet another Easter and observed the third anniversary of that fateful day.  “Was justice achieved?” we had to ask the reiterated question. “I believe there was no justice achieved with regard to the Easter Attacks. First and foremost, what the Commissions and their reports recommended have been barely implemented. The recommendations are with the Attorney General. But he has failed to take action. Furthermore, he has failed to state why no action has been taken. The report itself has its dark, ambiguous chapters. The report also says this should be further investigated. But has such an investigation happened at all?” questioned Fr. Cyril. 

Just as much as we understand the need of a proper and unbiased investigation, the thought of yet another report with 215 annexures and six volumes, while the pain and the loss refuse to dry out and nobody is found to be guilty, makes one shudder. Fr. Cyril mentioned some of the same things being said at the Parliament. Former Attorney General of Sri Lanka Dappula Livera has said there is one big conspiracy behind this. Fr. Cyril has lost all his faith in the Sri Lankan judiciary system. He is doubtful whether even the Sri Lankan Chief Justice is independent. It is in this light that the Cardinal is seeking the help of international assistance. He is hoping to do the same in Geneva. To appeal to the local and international organisations which stand up for human rights. 

They reach out to human rights defenders and that is because they saw nothing happening. “Three years is a long time and even after reaching out to all kinds of authorities, if they wait at a dead end, this is the choice they are left with.” 

Last 21 April marked three years since the Easter attacks and can the Government slip away from this responsibility? Why does the present Government want to hide this and sweep it under the carpet? Fr. Cyril questioned. “This is why the Cardinal said that one can kill and make one’s way to power but to remain or maintain that power is only a dream.

People deserve the truth

One might argue that no verdict can bring the dead back to life. But Fr.Cyril said this has nothing to do with bringing them back to life. “This is for the country because the country deserves an answer. We need to know what happened. Plus, we need to know who is behind this entire plot.” 

Easter or the Passover is when Christ gave his life in order to give us a new life which is the Passover from a sinful life to a brand new life. This Passover to a new life is what we commemorate. “We keep our hands folded in prayer that very soon Jesus would make this problem also a bridge, a Passover to reach the other side. We have not given up hope on this as yet,” said Fr. Cyril. While they continue to urge the Government to take necessary measures immediately, they also reach out to God. 

The blood of the innocent devotees who walked into churches on the most important feast of the Christians, will keep crying out. It is no coincidence that God speaks in the Book of Genesis saying “What have you done? Listen, your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” This is the blood of hundreds of brothers and sisters and how great can the sin be? While continuing to live by the words ‘forgive and forget,’ maybe it is fair to quote Thomas Jefferson when he said “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” The Cardinal and the Christian community stand like a rock. Living in a country which is falling to pieces, Easter’s biggest message would be to stand solid like a rock in terms of principle. In doing so, finding Christ this Easter will not be that hard. 

By Priyangwada Perera