A Message from the Centre for Islamic Studies Sri Lanka
As our motherland celebrates 73 years of independence on the Fourth of February, we as a nation can be justly proud of what we have achieved over the years. However, at the same time we also need to reflect on the true meaning and spirit of independence.
Independence is not merely being free from colonial rule, for one could be free to govern as one likes, but this is of no use if we do not learn from the lessons of the past. Colonialism was after all, not just another race ruling over us, the rightful sons and daughters of the land, but also had its own character and traits such as that sense of entitlement and exclusivity which we as a nation still loathe and ought to.
True independence can therefore only come when we ourselves shake off the shackles of that arrogance that characterized the colonial master and cultivate the nobler traits our beautiful faith traditions teach us – rather than a sense of entitlement, let us cultivate humility in our dealings with one another. Rather than having a sense of exclusivity, which we ourselves detested in the colonial ruler, let us be inclusive and embrace one another, and also embrace the other beyond our shores in the true spirit of humanity. If there’s one thing colonialism taught us, it is those things we can well do without.
Sri Lanka is home to all major faith traditions that still hold their own and survive in all its vigour and vitality. We have to our credit a long, time-tested tradition of co-existence and harmonious living. If there’s one common thread that runs through all these faiths, be it the sublime teachings of the Buddha or the wisdom of the great Hindu sages or the message of love preached by Jesus Christ or the message of peace and mercy of Prophet Muhammad, it is to love your brother in humanity as you would love yourself, and to do to him or her what you yourself would like to have done to you. This is a universal truth which all our faiths agree on.
It is in keeping with the noble teachings of these great teachers of humanity that we need to cultivate a spirit of love and tolerance for the other. The one and only way we can do that is to respect each and every citizen of our beloved Mother Lanka as brothers and sisters in humanity. This means that we must also respect one another’s age-old religious traditions. Religion after all is very dear to the hearts of those that practice it. It is in fact the very life force of our nation, a nation that has faithfully kept the faith when others have succumbed to the tide of lucre and materialism.
Let us therefore move forward as one nation, a nation that learns from its past, lives its present and looks to the future with hope eternal.