This is part three of a five part series written by USPG entitled Living with a World of Difference, celebrating diversity within the anglican community.
Hold a short time of silence together to still your minds and recall God’s presence, and then pray aloud together:
God, my Creator, I open my heart to you.
May it turn to you as the sunflower turns to the sun.
God, my Redeemer,
take away from my heart everything that is not love
so that I may reach out to you in my own unworthiness.
God, my Sanctifier,
journey with me along life’s way so that all that I am and all that I do
may bring greater glory to you the triune God. Amen.
From Sri Lanka
Suicide bomb attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday
2019 killed about 300 people and injured 500 others. The nation was left shocked, grieving and bewildered. In the face of such trauma, Anglican leaders responded. The Bishop of Colombo, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, and the Bishop of Kurunegala, Keerthisiri Fernando, reached out across the country’s diverse religious communities, imploring a united, peaceful response.
The bishops also cautioned against a spirit of vengeance. Despite knowing that the Anglican Church was a target, the bishops called for calm and a peaceful response from Christians. They bravely stood up for the Muslim community in Sri Lanka which had faced threats, exclusion and violence following the attacks. The church reached out to the families of the victims with love and solidarity as well as to the Muslim community facing extreme discrimination. There continue to be numerous instances of Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka and around the world standing together in solidarity and support, condemning violence of any kind against any religious group.
It was not unusual for the Anglican Church to call for peace. Bishop Dhiloraj has a reputation for standing against violence of any kind and has stood up in the past and condemned previous anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka. He stated in 2014 after particularly violent attacks on Muslim communities: “Sri Lanka is home to different communities who have co-existed for centuries, all of whom have partnered in the country’s development and must be allowed to enjoy the right to security and dignity as equal citizens of a united Sri Lanka.”
The bishops released a joint statement in the aftermath of the 2019 attacks. Here is an extract of what they wrote:
This is the opportune time for all people of every faith and belief in this nation to come together in our common humanity, to hold hands and work towards building One Family of One Nation. We need to commit ourselves to build bridges of trust and confidence with each other. Out of the debris of this chaotic situation something beautiful, something fragrant, something positive needs to emerge.
We cannot and must not act on the basis of “an eye for an eye, or a tooth for
a tooth” but we will follow the Master’s example and cry the same cry He cried on the cross with so much sadness and heaviness of heart saying – “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do”.
I call on all our fellow citizens and Christians in particular to embrace the
Muslim community who have lived in this country for many hundreds of years in peaceful co-existence. They must be treated with love and understanding.
It is important for our people to understand that such drastic and violent action cannot be generalised. We are thankful that the people of all religions and of all ethnicities in the country are able to understand this situation and they have shown much maturity in the aftermath of this most recent and horrendous wave of violence. We need to go beyond and engage in committed acts of consoling and healing. It is now the time… to come together to protect each other. It is our time of unity as Sri Lankans, to be together amidst the diversity we enjoy, in our communities.
Diversity is a gift that God has given us. Let us celebrate that tremendous gift of diversity. Let us genuinely learn to respect each other, putting aside all our differences and private agendas.
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in
shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from
each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,“For we too are his offspring.” Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on
which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, inviting each person to choose their preferred language.
Have a time of silence, followed by an opportunity to pray aloud any issues that have arisen during the session. Conclude by praying aloud together:
we confess to you our sinfulness.
You made the world a paradise
but we have turned our lands into
places of tears and unhappiness.
People are fighting each other
race against race.
the holocaust of chauvinism
sweeps through countries
terrorising us into submission.
free us from all bondage
so that our faith in you
will make us free
to create with courage
a new world –
new societies. Amen.
From Sri Lanka