Pro War Buddhist Monks Disrupt Interfaith Peace Rally
Its hard to imagine, but pro-war Buddhist monks disrupted an interfaith peace rally which included anti war Buddhists monks, Christian clergy and nuns, as well as Muslim and Hindu leaders. The event attended by over 1000 people, ended up in fisticuffs. A blow by blow description of the unseemly scuffle was broadcast over Sri Lankan TV the following day.
Chanting "no war, no war" the marchers wended their way Vihara Maha Devi park in Colombo for a rally. The event was organized by the National Anti-War Front (NAWF). During a speech by government minister Mervyn Silva, the pro war monks are reported to have climbed on to the stage and unfurled a banner interrupting the speech. The banner asked the peace demonstration to be held in Kilinochchi, a rebel held city in the North where fighting has intensified over the past two weeks.
The pro-peace lobby that has emerged is interesting in as much as it cuts across party antagonisms and has members of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government as well as the opposition United National Party (UNP). The only groups not represented in the NAWF are the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Buddhist monks' party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU),which are vocal supporters of the war.
The basic document of the NAWF called for an end to the hostilities and the commencement of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. "We demand that all parties honor the Ceasefire Agreement,” it said. “We demand that the LTTE refrain from all acts of violence. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to refrain from violence and not to encourage a culture of impunity."
The NAWF recalled that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had promised in his election campaign that he wanted to take the road to peace and was ready to meet the LTTE chief, Prabhakaran, face to face, to resolve all the issues.
"We urge the President and the Leader of the LTTE to talk to each other in resolving issues. We urge this to take place soon, when everything else seems to have failed," the NAWF document said. "We also urge the LTTE to transform itself into a political party and get involved in the political process," it said.
The NAWF wanted the LTTE to commit itself to a solution within a united Sri Lanka where both sides could achieve a "win-win" situation.
"We urge the LTTE to make a statement assuring the minorities and other political entities full representation and democracy in the North and East," it said.
Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera said: "It's regrettable that such aggressive acts occurred at an anti-war rally at which several religious dignitaries and peace loving citizens from all religions were present." He told Ecumenical News International, "This was a shameful act."