March 3, 2017 4:13 pm
Liberation Praxis of Christianity: Is it confined to History in the Post-War Sri Lanka?
Pope Francis may not be a leftist, but his ‘brand’ of Christianity does not soothe his conservative critics. The pope in number of occasions has reiterated several key themes of his papacy including calls for more humane policies toward immigrants, taking steps to curb environmental abuse, condemning the weapons industry and calling on a commitment to fight global poverty.One cannot but wonder whether thisFranciscan Church lived in Ignatianpraxis ofDiscernmentis a one-off moment in the history of the Church or is it a movement that affirms the liberationpraxis of Christianity. My tentative answer is that it is a kairos, a blessed moment in history, where the values of the Kingdom are highlighted through the praxis of love. The ‘audaciousness of faith’exemplified by Pope Francis questions the basic fundamentals of theCatholic Church in Sri Lanka which has become ‘self-referential’ by burying itself in liturgical diapers and ecclesiastical draperies. It is in this context one needs to examine whether the liberation praxis of Christianity is confined to history in post-war Sri Lanka?
It is possible to argue that the church is less visible in the post-conflict reconstruction of the Sri Lankan society. This is perhaps the church has not woken from the absolute truth of Christ which became a basin for conservatism and for orthodoxy during the pontificate of JPII, who through the arm of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and his Brigands in the local churchtried to put order rather than creativity within those teaching the Catholic faith at all levels. It is this that prevented and prevents in exercising the sense of urgency to address issues both during the war and in the post-war scenario; the pace is slower and the given fruits less tangible. The inability to provide a Church of solidarity, hope and cooperation between different groups in Sri Lanka and to ‘image’ the Church as a ‘Field Hospital’ for victims of war is a reminder that in Sri Lanka blood is thicker than water: ethnicity is more powerful than membership of a community based on Christian baptism and the use of water in order to dissolve the division created by ethnicity and social identity.
This is so evident in the apparent division that exit between the Northern Church and the Southern Hierarchy of the Catholic churchon the proposed resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council. In her official statements the Southern Hierarchy of the Catholic Church has always denounced any international effort at monitoring any peace initiatives as well as external investigations into war crimes allegations. It has noted “it is an undue meddling in the sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka.” In sharp contrast,the Northern Church hasalways urged for an “international independent and effective mechanism to monitor and address accountability issues”.Predictably, the Northern Church has earned the wrath of the Southern Hierarchy of the Catholic Churchclaiming that the stand taken by the Northern church is not the opinion of the Catholic community of Sri Lanka.The overt acts of speaking in the name of the Catholic Church at largeby the Southern Hierarchy reveal that the Church is merely putting up a show of unity to the congregation and the world at large. However, behind closed doors the Church acts very much like the house of parliament than a shared and sacred refuge for all Catholics, especially for the victims of war.
The sad reality is that the Church has lost its credibility with the victims of war and the marginalized who should be the priority of priorities of the church. The apparent ‘indifference’ of the church to the pressing issues of the victims of war in the post-reconstruction of the society along truth seeking and reconciliation means in practice that the commandment to love is only the theatrical formula studied with scriptures and lived with liturgies. The failure of the triumphant Sri Lankan church and of Sri Lankan Christians in general can be restored only when the local church captures the ‘brand’ of Christianity Pope Francis urges us to live. For it is human history that provides the possibility of God’s intervention on behalf of the poor and the marginalized and it is in the human history that God accompanies and protest against those who have the upper voice and the structures to sustain that voice of power, status and prestige.
If one uses the shifting historical contexts, the suffering of today’s victims of war and their cry for retribution, restoration or their demands of sociopolitical inclusion or their assertion of their own human dignity, all those human demands remain part of the road to relocate the Church from the clear bounded ecclesial moments to a shifting context of post-conflict reconstruction andto the road of God, rather than to the road to God. It is only then the church can meaningfully witness to the liberating praxisof Christianity where the voice of the victims of war can be heard and their oppression ends on their own terms and according to their own wishes. The victims of war remain closer to God because God is the God of the poor and the marginalized. Therefore, as a Christian, I cannot be satisfied with calls for reconciliation and for a common nationhood of all Sri Lankans without a call to strengthen a liberating Christianity of the grassroots. If not, the Liberation Praxis of Christianity will be confined to history and only be taught in Catechism books.