The Anglican Bishop of Colombo says what everyone knows – that “reconciliation eludes us today because the immediate wounds of war have not been substantially addressed” and accountability is missing. (1)

Accountability is a dirty word in Sri Lanka. More than that, when spoken about it brings out aggressive reactions from those in power. Those who know they are guilty clearly want to hide their crimes. But even those who had no direct part don the armour of arrogance and rhetoric in a bit to avoid learning.

It’s probably too much to ask the guilty to learn. But this second group should – unless they want their children and their children’s children to inherent a violent dysfunctional country.

Who could they learn from? What about Bishop Humper who was a key mediator between the Government of Sierra Leone and the rebels, and went on to lead the Truth & Reconciliation process. He was recently asked about the role of a Special independent inquiry into war crimes and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC): “Which of these was more important?” Bishop Humper was categorical in his response “Both are a must. The TRC helps the people to find a voice for their stories to be heard, the Special investigation into war crimes is essential because some people are more accountable and have to be held accountable. They have to know that they cannot get away scot-free”.

The Government of Sri Lanka is far away from learning any lessons. Indeed, it is so defensive that it has even said it will deny entry to the UN Panel of Experts who only have the authority to advise the UN Secretary General. (2)

Back to the Bishop of Colombo’s concerns. He speaks of the growing militarization of the previous war zone, the many messages that the winners distrust the losers, how political power today has become a quest for personal financial gain and all whilst the rest of the country endures “a sub-human quality of life”.

But his most powerful statement relates to the lack of any constructive intention by those at the top of the government: “The crux of the reconciliation crisis however is the inability or refusal to substantially draw the minorities into the task of governance and nation building. For this to happen there should be a shift in attitude. The minorities cannot continue to be sidelined as peripheral communities dependent on goodwill decisions taken at the centre or with little to offer the nation. The alarmingly conspicuous absence of all national languages and cultures at national events as well as the fast diminishing number of minority community representatives as national advisers, consultants and senior bureaucrats, apart from tokenism, makes the point. The sooner that competent persons from minority communities are included in all departments of national life, very specially our shared political future, the sooner reconciliation will be within our reach.”

He also speaks boldly about the human rights violations, as “The investigation of disappearances and deaths of a large number of civilians, including media personnel, is another step that will enhance reconciliation. The identification of sites of death or burial, so that last rites can be performed should be part of this work. This will help relatives come to terms with the truth, the past and grief. It is when the deepest longings of those who grieve have been heard, that reconciliation spreads.”

Whilst the Govt. of Sri Lanka promotes a triumphalist victory parade, what Bishop Duleep suggests is a “Day of National mourning,” to garner “national energy to demonstrate that war must never be repeated”. That is clearly a forlorn hope as even inter-religious memorial services were banned.

At some point soon, the Church will need to decide if it has any chance to remaining authentic to its beliefs or be subdued by the domination System that now controls Sri Lanka. The Buddhist Mahanayakes who tried to organise a national conference were threatened into silence. (3) Life may be impermanent but it is human to want to hold on to the trappings of power a bit longer. And the Christians in Sri Lanka? Will they follow the non-violent civil disobedience teachings of their founder? Or will they also find an accommodation with power in their softly-softly approach?

Are Bishop Duleep’s words – an indication that the tide may be turning to Christian acting true to the social justice mandate and that true faith may yet triumph over power? (4) The words are strong but actions speak much stronger than words.

Christians need to train for non-violence because now is the time for action, not just sermons. This is a message for Bishop Duleep and all other leaders of the Christian churches – Catholic, Anglican and Evangelical. But remember, in his time Jesus wasn’t an appointed leader and his followers certainly had no official roles. So this is also a message to the many Sri Lankans inside the country and outside who claim Christianity as their faith…you too as followers can make a difference.