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Destruction of humanity

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The attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 49 people and is estimated to have seriously injured nearly as many, is a brutal reminder of the consequences of building polarising ideologies in the modern world. 

Reacting with disgust to the attacks many countries, institutions and people worldwide have pointed out that such attacks can be directly linked to the Islamophobia that has taken wing around the world since the infamous 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Dissecting the enfolding history is more than this short column is capable of but the Christchurch attacks are a sobering reminder of why it is essential to fight divisive policies at every level. 

Sri Lanka is unfortunately not free from using ethnic divisions for political and other gains. In fact it has been a deep part of the country’s history and continues to colour inter-community relations even in the present day. Perhaps the best example of this is the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the havoc it has been linked to over the years. While its public presence appears to have diminished somewhat, one only needs to cast their mind back to Digana or Aluthgama to remember the spine chilling effectiveness of what anti-minority rhetoric can do. 

Just last month speculation was rife that a Presidential pardon may be in the works to free its leader and the move was inexplicably, widely supported even by leaders of the Buddhist clergy. Snippets of news of the BBS meeting with political leaders is also a dangerous sign, especially given that elections are around the corner. Social media has amplified this danger exponentially and there is greater need for moderate members of the public to be vigilant against the seeping influence of these divisive ideologies. 

Identity politics is an old and often dirty game, which is sometimes embraced with populism. Spreading the idea that one group of people should be disliked, nay hated, because they are different or seek to change a way of life or overtake another system of belief is insidious and effective because it preys on the most vulnerable parts of the human psyche. It is incredibly dangerous because such messages are akin to indoctrination and seek to dehumanise a specific group of people. This spreading of fear and prejudice attempts to make a group’s existence irrelevant or their demise beneficial to the rest of humanity. 

As Sri Lanka prepares to present a resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) it is very clear that demonising an entire ethnicity while unquestioningly holding up another group or military institution is two sides of the same coin. The broadening of innocence and guilt, of taking away individual responsibility or culpability and refusing to raise the issue of accountability is a dangerous path that can lead to deadly consequences. The reconciliation efforts of the Government have not been impressive and there is a need to fast track them so that ethnic divisions stop defining the freedoms and rights that are allocated to Sri Lankans. No one, especially politicians, should be allowed to use ethnic and religious differences to demonise the other because the result is only destruction of humanity.  

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