I firmly believe in the opinion expressed by MP Harin Fernando, that religions are being used by politicians to gain cheap votes and, no doubt, we say this is the cause for the ever worsening rifts among communities in Sri Lanka. An Indian national leader recently said ‘In search of cheap votes, politicians divide communities by race, religion and caste and create unrest among them which leads to clashes among them. You may succeed in finding vaccines to prevent, or cure, the current pandemic, but no Astra, Pfizer or Sputnik will help to cure the politicians created rifts among the communities, please avoid creating one!.
Peace activist Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools’. No country will ever prosper without peace among the communities. It is repeatedly pointed out the secret for Singapore’s success is the peaceful coexistence of all the communities living there.
With the Sinhala-Tamil New Year around the corner, I am reminded of my past pleasant memories. I would like to recall the peace and harmony every person enjoyed, prior to the unfortunate bloodshed, due to the civil war. My family was the sole Muslim family that lived down Nagahawatta Road, in Maharagama, in the mid-sixties, before I came to the Gulf on an assignment. The ten years of highly pleasant and enjoyable life I spent there still remains the best part of my life. Although our original plan was to return to our homeland on completion of the contract, one thing led to another, and finally I got involved in establishing a business organization with a local here. I cannot believe that I have now spent 46 years in the Gulf.
The recent turn of events, after the heartless massacre of the innocents by a few brutes, carrying Muslim names, but condemned by the entire Muslim community really saddened us living in the Gulf. The damage done to the country, through this ugly attack, and the clashes that followed to attack the Muslims who were truly opposed to this church massacre, gave bad publicity in most of the foreign media. All these really made me think hard and wonder ‘Where are the Sinhala and Muslim communities, I grew up with?’ However, the comforting factor is that the majority of the entire population is opposed to what took place in the past.
During the days prior to our departure, to the Gulf, we lived at Maharagama. Being the only Muslim family, among the solely Sinhala residents on Nagahawatta Road, it made us to receive much more attention, and care, from the neighbours, which I am sure, we wouldn’t have got such care even in an environment with our own community. The local Buddhist temple was just a hundred metres away from our house and the chief monk was a frequent visitor to my residence, equalling my visits to the temple in return. Once we were involved in a project to install a water-pump to the temple. I am proud to say I got enormous support from my Buddhist friends in my workplace, where I worked then, to accomplish this job. I cannot imagine how grateful the chief monk was about the little thing I could do, in the successful installation of that pump. He chose the project I handled as a main topic to speak in every ‘pinkama’ that followed thereafter in the temple.
Although there were three other houses, with refrigerators, on the same road, most of the poor neighbours chose our house to store their homemade fruit salads for any ‘Dana’ for the monks. It was something extraordinary to see how our house gets filled with sweets on the Sinhala New Year day, in addition to lunch and dinner delivered by the immediate neighbours. We would reciprocate this good friendly gesture on both our Eid days, namely Ramadan and Hajj. The extraordinarily friendly atmosphere prevailed then really touched our heart. They, I repeat, were the best years of our life.
On one instance, my mother-in-law noticed that someone had plucked two young coconuts from our ‘Gundera’ tree. As everyone knows, these trees are dwarf and even a child could have easily reached the bunch of coconuts. The good old lady confided this to the nextdoor neighbour, Yaswathie, who straight away passed the message to the chief monk. Incidentally, the monk is from Kumbalgamuwa –Weligama, which is my birthplace, too. He could not bear this and had told the nextdoor neighbour that it was an insult to all of us and we had to find the culprits. He sent people around and caught the two boys who were in their early teens. He ordered their parents to take the children to me and apologise to me. The following day, the parents visited me with the boys. After serving them refreshment I told the parents to take them home because it was really an embarrassment for me to have them apologizing to me for two young coconuts. The parents said, ‘Loku Hamuduruwo’ will not spare us, if we don’t give him a satisfactory answer.’ I assured them that I would tell the chief monk that they had visited my home and I had pardoned them.
I am simply bewildered now with what I read frequently in local newspapers about the prevailing situation in some areas back home. I also vividly remember my school days, in a Sinhala school, at Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya, in Weligama, where I was the only Muslim student and where I was not treated differently for being a boy from the minority community. On the other hand, I got the best of attention from my fellow students and as well as the teachers. My best friends still are those who grew up with me in school. Then, I remember my working life in Colombo, where the communal identity was never an issue at any time and we enjoyed being together to the maximum.
I urge the leaders of both communities to study in depth what really has gone wrong. I also urge the government to help the two communities restore their good relations. I learn through the media only a few political parties have taken this matter seriously and the JVP is one of them and it has taken up this noble task to bring all communities to coexist in peace and harmony. I hope other political parties too will join hands to achieve this goal.
I am yearning to see the Sinhala and Muslim communities, I knew, during my school days, during my working life, and most importantly the years I spent at Nagahawatta Road in Maharagama. Long live Sri Lanka! May coexistence among all communities prevail in our beloved motherland!
Disclaimer: No vaccine for rifts among communities; so, be careful By S. H. MOULANA - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view