This series of posts comes from Dr. Sharif Abdullah of the Commonway Institute, a regular visitor to Sri Lanka and active peaceworker.
The war poster caption reads:
“Now we have a country for ourselves,
There is now a tomorrow for you, son.”
“We salute you!”
I had gotten pretty immune to the never ending stream of “patriotic” billboards and posters along Galle Road, Sri Lanka ‘s Main Street . Soldiers in jungle gear, faces smeared with war paint, huge assault guns held in ready position, with lots and lots of bullets draped on them – the jewelry of death.
Because I turn off the propaganda of war (in whatever country I’m in), I almost missed this poster: a little larger than usual, and with more implements of violence (jet fighters, helicopters…). But, the thing that got my attention was its position: right in front of a huge statue of the Buddha. My first reaction was: “I didn’t see that.” Maybe my mind conjoined two very separate images — after all, most of Galle Road is a blur to me, after traveling this main traffic artery for over a dozen years.
A few days later, I drove back by. This time, I asked my driver to stop. And I took some photos. And a movie clip, in case someone accuses me of Photoshopping (a verb, akin to plagiarizing).
I am not a Buddhist scholar. I haven’t formally studied the religion. But, from the little that I know, I believe the Buddha would unequivocally condemn the violence being done in his name in Sri Lanka . If that statue could move, it would get up and tear down the poster that glorifies and revels in violence. If that statue could cry, it would.
All around the world, I see people all too willing to hijack and subvert their most precious spiritual beliefs, to satisfy their lust for blood and their lust for power.
This isn’t about a minor deviation from a minor aspect of a hard to understand religious dogma. It is a major violation of one of the core tenets of one of the world’s most important faiths.
But that’s not the bad part: what turns my stomach is the near-silence met by this travesty.