OMNIA has written an open letter to the Leaders of Religious and Spiritual Traditions in Sri Lanka as they work together to seek a peaceful and rational solution. We are asking you to review the letter below and add your signature to stand in support of a peaceful and faithful solution to this crisis.
To: All the leaders of all religious and spiritual traditions of Sri Lanka
Cc: The President, Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers of the government of Sri Lanka, civic and community leaders, media organizations.
Honorable and esteemed colleagues,
Greetings of peace!
We, leaders of the global religious community and people of faith, write seeking ways to stand in solidarity with you in the context of the current interreligious tensions in Sri Lanka.
We appreciate the launching of the “Diyawanna Declaration on Religious and Communal Harmony” in Sri Lanka, on 26 April, 2019, which recommends “Inter-faith dialogue with relevant specialists to be regularly carried out at the urban and rural grassroots levels to voluntarily resolve differences.”
Although you experienced it most closely, we too were shaken by the devastating attacks on Easter Sunday. Our hearts go out to each person and family affected by the bombings of churches and hotels, to the specific churches that were bombed, and to the entire Christian community in Sri Lanka.
We are deeply troubled by the escalation of hateful rhetoric and the spreading of rumors against Muslim communities across the island that lead to the attacks on Muslim persons, the boycotting of Muslim businesses and creating an environment of fear and uncertainty.
We are aware of the historical roots of such conflicts, in particular, the devastating effects of four and half centuries long colonialism and its continuing after-effects. We, ourselves are working to address such injustices in our own contexts.
Nevertheless, we are at a loss to understand how some Buddhist monks could use hate speech and incite mobs to violence. We wish to declare that in the dhamma that the Lord Buddha taught, there is no place for hate, hate-speech and violence. In fact, the opening chapter of the Dhammapada states: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.”
We are also concerned that the government has thus far not been able to prosecute or hold to account those who incite violence, despite laws that prohibit hate speech, and that even in the midst of violent incidents, it is reported that the police have often been inactive observers without intervening to prevent escalation of the conflict.
Therefore, as global religious leaders we pledge to do the following:
· Demand that the government take steps to protect all vulnerable communities; that all hate speech, incitement, and hateful actions immediately cease; and that swift, meaningful legal action be brought against all those who engage in hate speech and violence.
· Encourage urban and rural grassroots level interreligious dialogue and peacemaking, with open and honest conversations of the issues that cause conflicts and to address them together.
· Bring a representative group of religious leaders to Sri Lanka to listen to, learn from and to stand in deep solidarity with you, leaders of the religious and spiritual traditions of Sri Lanka at this difficult time.
With our very best wishes for peace!
Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana
President, OMNIA Institute for Contextual Leadership
Other signatories include:
1. Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Executive Director Emeritus, Parliament of the World’s Religions (Chicago, Illnois, USA)
2. Imam Malik Mujahid, Executive Director, Sound Vision (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
3. Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President, National Council of Churches of Christ (Washington, DC, USA)
4. Dr. Mohamad Elsanousi, Executive Director, Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (Washington DC, USA)
5. Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, Professor Emeritus, Drew University (Geneva, Switzerland).
Latest Signatures & remarks:
Dr. Martin E. Marty, Emeritus - Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago
Dr. Paul Knitter, Union Theological Seminary
Lamarr Scruggs, Pastor
”I stand with you!”
Rev. Philip Roth, Reformed Church of Basel, Switzerland
Soraya Deen, Interfaith Solidarity Network
”A necessary initiative. Leaders who care about peace and interfaith solidarity must rally around in support by signing this letter. Thank you.”
Rev. Dr. Eardley Mendis, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
”As protectors of a peaceful and compassionate religion, we request Buddhist clergy to come together with all religious leaders to work for peace so that all living beings may be happy and free from suffering.”
Merwyn De Mello, Mennonite Central Committee
”I stand in solidarity with you.”
Dhilanthi Fernando, Music Director, First Presbyterian Church of Chicago
Moses Jones, Dusable Alumni Coalition for Action
Dr. Marilyn Krogh, Associate Professor, Loyola University of Chicago
Olivia Chase, Restorative Justice Practitioner & Trainer
Beth Williams, President, Edgewater Consulting, Ltd.
Rev. Anna York, President, Rising Up! Inc.
“I stand in solidarity with all Sri Lankans, praying for peace and wisdom to prevail. I know the power of the Interfaith Peacemaker Teams and encourage the government to support their work throughout Sri Lanka.”
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bedell, CEO, CivilRightsDream.net
Lina Moukheiber, President of EMIL (Elias Moukheiber Institute for Lebanon)
”Sri-Lankans always in our prayer. From Lebanon with love.”
Lisa Notter, Chicago Theological Seminary
Dr. Deborah Weissman, Consultant to the International Council of Christians and Jews
Vince Amlin, Co-Pastor, Bethany UCC/ Gilead Chicago
Rebecca Ninke, Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
R. Drew Smith, Co-Convener, Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race
Rev. Dr. Garnett Foster, Presbyterian Church USA
Karen Bloomquist, Lutheran theologian and pastor
Fr Joseph Varghese, Institute for Religious Freedom and Tolerance ( IRFT)
Rev. Kenneth Bensen, Chairman Emeritus, Board of Omnia Institute
Ray Dalton, (Retired) Associate Professor of Sociology Carson-Newman University
Taslim Hammed, Professor, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
”Let peace reign in the land. Our God is just one and lover of peace loving people. Peace is possible. Let us give peace a chance”
Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Birmngham University UK
”I concur completely with the sentiments in this letter and grieve over the current context of inter-religious tension in Sri Lanka.”
Ms. Beth Vande Voort
Priscilla Eppinger, Executive Director, American Baptist Historical Society
Rev. Sarah Nahar, Minister
”Interfaith Peacemaker Teams combines the best of the community organizing and liberation theology. May you have much success, despite the forces of violence.”
Jay Rock, Retired Coordinator of Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Elizabeth Mellen, St. Marys
Prince S.N. Jacob, The McRoyal Foundation
“In firm faith and staunch solidarity, we at The McRoyal Foundation stand with all Interfaith Peacemaker Teams of OMNI on this mission of salvaging innocent lives in Sri Lanka and environs. We pray for peace around and within Sri Lanka, we pray also that all affected get succors from above. We implore the government of Sri Lanka to pay attention to them, listen to their thoughts and find a lasting solution to the rancor and chaos. God bless the IPTs! God bless OMNIA! God bless The MacRoyal Foundation! God bless Sri Lanka!”
Kusumita Pedersen, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies, St. Francis College
”In the era of climate emergency, the foundations of peace must be made stronger than ever before.”
Mohammad Siddiqi, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, Northwest Suburban College; Treasurer and Board Member, World Council of Muslims for interfaith Relations (WCMIR)
”A strong Sri Lanka needs religious and ethnic tolerance and respect leading to peace and instability of the country. Let us work together to achieve thie goal of peace and harmony in Sri Lanka.”
Dr. Perry Schmidt-Leukel, University of Muenster, Germany
”I fully endorse the content of the letter.”
Rabbi Jim Kaufman, Interfaith Solidarity Network, San Fernando Valley and Temple Beth Hillel
Rev. Dawn Christenson, Pastor, United Church of Christ
”I support your peace-making efforts! Let us sow love and understanding, to snuff out the fires of hatred and violence.”
Ms. Sally Mackey
Faisal Buharie, Civic Leader
Rev. William Freeman, The Congregational Church of Chatsworth
”Peace & Love will prevail.”
Father. Corey Brost, Co-Founder, Children of Abraham Coaliton (Chicago, IL)
Rabbi Karen Bender
Consuelo Miller, Attorney, Law Office of Consuelo R. Miller, Ltd., Dover, Delaware
Rev. Dr. Mary Lou Codman, Pastor, New Hope Bible Fellowship
”I agree with the contents of this letter and our church will lift its voice in prayer for peace in your land.”
Shaheen Khan, Co founder of Children of Abraham Coalition group
”It is very important to maintain peace between all faiths.”
Scott Van Antwerp, First Church of Christ
”Throughout history and across the globe whether it was the Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Joan of Arc, Mother Theresa, Mohammed, Theresa of Avila... and the list goes on, they all share a common experience. Their experience of the divine showed them in some way that they were connected to something higher/greater than their earthly existence and a common connection to all of humanity, the result...either a delusion of something better, or a possibility of something better. What gives the metaphor of "God", "Higher Power", "Oneness", etc... it's enduring meaning is the very fact that it is rooted in something that is experienced as unconditionally real and loving. The myths that drive forward by biological compulsion are intuitively shaped to trigger unitary states and all religions are the branches of the same spiritual tree. Some of those branches get sick, they wither and die, some of those branches hurt people. Human fascination on narrative and practice blends with power and gets corrupted. We need to stand fast and combat the narratives that cause harm to humanity and rely on the experience of the divine that holds us all equal together.”
Jean Fischer, Former Gen. Sec. Conference of European Churches. Geneva
Dr. Dr. Purnaka de Silva, Director, Institute of Strategic Studies and Democracy (ISSD) Malta
Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Issues, United Church of Christ
Dr. Saskia Sassen, Professor, Columbia University, New York, USA
Dr. Padmasiri de Silva, Professor, Monash University
“From Australia, I send my deeply felt vision for a United Sri Lanka.”
Thoreau May, Pastor , Eternal Love Baptist Church
”I am praying for this world.”
Rev. Dr. George Armstrong, Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement.
Rev. Dr. John T. Pawlikowski, Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Catholic Theological Union
Esther Menn, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Michael Trainor, Senior Lecturer, Australian Catholic University
”A response is urgent, justified and critical.”
Rev. Melody Seaton
Rev. Dr. Darrell Jodock, Professor Emeritus, Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, Minnesota, USA)
Jessi LeClear Vachta, Interfaith Activist, Twin Cities MN
Dr. Ian Fry, Chair, Commission on Living Faiths, Dialogue and Community, Victorian Council of Churches
”By virtue of our heritage and both our actions and inaction we all share in this tragedy and are equally obligated to work towards a solution that brings peace to the people of Sri Lanka and glory to God. Please, Lord, may we succeed.”
David Anirudha Das, General Secretary- National Council of Churches in Bangladesh
”We stand strongly in Solidarity with our Sri Lanka's brother and sisters who are fighting against Religious Extremism, as we are also fighting against the same.”
Suresh Pawar, The Salvation Army
”Let there be peace in our country and the love that bind us together in brotherhood/sisterhood building each other up.”
Mario Gomez, Executive Director, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka
Craig Henry, Former President, Alliance of Baptists
Dr. Thillayvel Naidoo
” Conflict between religions and religious communities is in our world to stay. Peace will only come when we realise that some religions are the very cause of the violence we see around us. If Sri Lanka is a Buddhist-Hindu country what precisely are foreign religions doing there? Do foreign religions really respect the indigenous culture of Sri Lanka? Peace will only come when foreign religions admit that Sri Lanka will know peace only when they leave the country. We must stop assuming that foreign religions have any worthwhile truths to teach the people of India and Sri Lanka. This is not said out of malice but out of a deep sense of what religion really is and a desire for peace in our world. Sri Lanka will live in peace when her Buddhist culture is respected and foreign religions realise this.”
Paul Shishir Sarker, Retired Bishop of Church of Bangladesh
”All true faithful believers are the people of peace and justice. The blind conservative terrorist groups those who kill innocent people of other faiths in the name of religion are very few . If we come together in love and solidarity we will win over this evil power of this present world.”
Nicholas Adhikary, HR Associate, Sanofi Bangladesh Limited
”I stand with you !”
Rev. Ashim Kumar Barol, General Secretary, Bangladesh Baptist Church Sagnha (BBCS), Bangladesh
”On behalf of the LORD JESUS CHRIST we are the PEACE MAKER on the earth and we appreciate a peaceful World where we will live together with peace and Joy for His glory. Always we hate any injustice and violence against His creations.”
Rev.Dr.Oscar Varnadoe, Senior Pastor Wide Awake United Church of Christ Benton Harbor MI.
”Peace in not an option it is a reality. We must engage in world peace.”
Shelmun Dashan, Attorney
Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
Rev. John Burns, Pastor, University Baptist Church, College Park, Maryland
Rev. Dr. Frank Baldwin, Presbyterian Church USA
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President Emeritus, Interfaith Alliance and Pastor Emeritus, Northminster Church
Rev. Sarah Stephens
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Jenny Pergadas, Church board member
”Praying for all the believers suffering persecution”
Rev. Catiana McKay, Pastor, Northern Illinois Conference, United Methodist Church
Weina Xu, Rehabilitation Counselor
Dr. Judith Martin, Professor Emerita University of Dayton
”Sustained peace requires a commitment to justice for people of all faiths.”
Dr. Michael E Ellis, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
” Istand in solidarity with other religious leaders during this difficult time. May God go with you.”
Rev. Joel Ickes, Community Pastor
Rev. Jane Tuma, Minster at Large, Chicago Presbytery
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, Executive Director, A Just Harvest; Senior Pastor, San Lucas UCC
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