Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged his fellow Sri Lankans to leave old hatreds behind and criticized some of the country's media for purposefully promoting division. Speaking at an event celebrating Sri Lanka's oldest Catholic newspaper, Cardinal Ranjith said that the country must make a shift from where they identify themselves based on race or religion. "We must move away from the era when we thought of ourselves as Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim individually or as Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or Catholic," Cardinal Ranjith told those attending the 150th anniversary of Gnanartha Pradeepaya
newspaper on Jan. 11. "What is required of us today is not to indulge in the hateful, racial and religious ideologies that can result in being imprisoned in the dark attitudes of the past," he said at the event which was also attended by Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena. "It is need of the times to be bold enough to ban political parties and other extremists that base their manifestoes on racial and religious ideologies."
Cardinal Ranjith added that such parties are divisive and work against national harmony
. "It is our primary responsibility to protect the identity of the majority and at the same time to protect the identities of minorities," he said. Today 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people identify as Buddhist, 10 percent as Muslim, 12 percent as Hindus and 7 percent as Christian
. "Some mass media try to gain cheap popularity through igniting racial and religious disharmony and mistrust," said Cardinal Ranjith. In 2014, the United Nations rights office said there were 88 attacks against Muslims and 55 against Christians. Bodu Bala Sena, a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization last year joined hands with a collection of controversial organizations from Myanmar to campaign against Muslims and Christians. Father Shanthasagara Hettiarachchi, editor of Gnanartha Pradeepaya
, echoed the cardinal's statement on banning political groups in Sri Lanka who promote hateful, racial and religious ideologies. Religious minorities should not try and control society, he said, but should understand the common Buddhist culture and through that, people would be able to work together accordingly. Racial divisions were at the heart of the Sri Lankan government's 25-year-old war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who fought for a separate Tamil homeland in the country's north and east
. Both sides were accused of gross human rights violations during the conflict, which ended in May 2009. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people died as a result of the war.
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