Cultural diversity for national prosperity | Sunday Observer

Cultural diversity for national prosperity

29 December, 2019

The yuletide season makes way to herald the New Year. The aura of Christmas blessed us, and we were enriched by moments spent with family and friends. To millions of Sri Lankans 2019 was a year with challenges in many realms. We witnessed the brutal attacks carried out on Easter Sunday. This incident made people stop and reflect on our journey as a nation. Our resplendent island has always been a bountiful paradise blessed with tropical beauty. For centuries people of different cultures and religious doctrines lived peacefully in this Buddhist nation. If one were to explore the historical records of our multi-cultural coexistence it showed that Sri Lankans were a people who accepted and cared for others. It was this national mindset that facilitated trade in the ancient ports around our maritime border-which attracted ships from many nations.

We have been a nation that withstood three invasions and colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Despite the defiant attitudes of these foreign invaders whose primary aim was to dominate the trade in the region, we managed to sustain our unity and went one step further, embracing and welcoming their culture and the religion which they propagated. Centuries later we take pride in our continuous journey. We certainly had our black chapters induced with conflicts based on violent extremist ideologies laced with the poison of racism. As Mahathma Gandhi said “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean: if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”. Thankfully, since 2009 the harsh sounds of battle ceased completely. People living in fear and suspicion were free to interact and reconcile. Let us never judge a man by his surname or place of birth.

As we reap the fruits of peace we cannot forget the men who paid for that peace with their young lives, the hundreds of men from the armed forces and the police who laid down their lives, making the supreme sacrifice. These gallant men died for all Sri Lankans.

It is their indomitable will that helped them overcome and bring a lasting era of peace – for the Sinhalese, Tamils, Burghers and Muslims. In the Bible, evil is often given the imagery of a dark beast rising out of the abyss to kill and destroy. In April 2019 that black beast of radicalized extremism dangerously unleashed its fury taking away many lives-the lives of people praying in churches. We come back to the stage of having to reassess our national conscience. As we enter 2020 it’s our duty to reconcile and remember our cultural diversity and move forward as one strong nation. If we remain steadfast in our national identity as Sri Lankans, no nation can accuse us or challenge us. Our vibrant unity will vindicate us.

It is a universal trend to have aspirations for the New Year. Resolutions are made with renewed zest. It is good to make personal resolutions that will enhance and uplift our individual lives. This ripple effect will spread to our communities.

The Dalai Lama said, “Happiness is not something readymade: it comes from your own actions”. Yet, many seek happiness with selfish gratification. Happiness for many folk is based on happenings. Their happy mood is influenced by those around them, which is temporary.

To some it depends on how many likes they get for a facebook post. It is interesting to remember the warning in the ancient Bhagavd Gita which emphasizes, “Lust, anger and greed are the three gates to hell.” Selfish gratification would lead to loss, shame and emptiness. This mindset will strive to divide and instil confusion in others.

During December apart from the Christmas trees and dazzling lights one of the beautiful things I cherished was the visual of our youth, coming together as Sri Lankans to express their art on the once neglected parapet walls. This is the joyful resurgence of our united Sri Lankan spirit. Mahathma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This is what we need to show the world-Sinhalese, Tamils, Burghers and Muslims embracing our rich cultural diversity.

We have the capacity to do it. In his famous sermon on the mount Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” You can only contribute to national peace if you have peace within yourself. 2020 will have its challenges. It is a year that will be a foundation for future growth. This is our watch, no matter how long the night, let us remain strong and make it count.