By Rochelle Silva,
“There’s a place in your heart and I know that it is love”, sang Michael Jackson. Love, in its myriad forms and ways; ranging from the firm yet kind parental love to mushy adoration, certainly keeps us going. And it is the love for our motherland blazing in the hearts of every individual that will keep Sri Lanka going. So the war in our sun kissed island ended more than 4 years ago. Does this mean our country has been full of love and peace ever since? Do I hear you saying “Oh! Can we talk about something else?
True, the country has moved ahead in terms of economic development. However, I’m not too sure of the development in our attitudes, especially when I see the recent hike in hate speech and religious discrimination over social media. Every religion is based on the golden rule that you shall treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Is that the reason why racist posts and comments with hurtful rhetoric flourish online? Is that the reason why sharing an anti-racist post can earn you nasty comments?
I faced a similar incident a few months back. To be honest, I was angry: Don’t these people realize that they are paving the path for another war? Another 30 year war which crippled our nation? Be frank; all of us have been affected by the war in one way or another. Think about all the innocent lives that were lost… Maybe some of your loved ones too… Think about the feelings you had when you heard that bloodcurdling music of breaking news on TV… Think about the curfews, check points, bomb threats, the effect on development, the mass exodus of many Sri Lankans… On a personal note, I nearly lost my mother due to the central bank bombing in 1996. Just thinking that there was a possibility she might not have made it makes me tear up inside. Do wewantthosehorrificeventsagain?
Even though all these thoughts were circling in my heart, there was a catch here. If I commented with an equally sarcastic comment, I would just be “hating” hatred. I discussed the possible motives behind this with a great friend of mine who raised some interesting questions. Wasn’t it possible that these persons had undergone traumatic experiences due to the war? Maybe their relatives got killed. Maybe they were brought up with the idea that they should hate other ethnic groups. If my mother had died, I might have become a bitter racist too. As Nelson Mandela says, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite’’
Fortunately, there are Sri Lankans who can say: “I’m not racist. I treat everyone equally.” If you are one of them, be really proud about yourself! As Mahatma Gandhi says, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. But you can’t say “Okay. I’m strong”, and wash your hands of responsibility. If there’s a place for Sri Lanka in your heart, you should put your strength into action.
Your efforts may seem insignificant, but like the little drops of water gathering to make the mighty ocean, the collective efforts of many individuals will definitely make a change. Being one of the contributors of a page titled “Written for Reconciliation” (writtenforreconciliation.blogspot.com), I’m happy to see that many are making their voices heard.
Whenever you come across hate in your day to day lives, take the time to understand. Forgive him/her and take the first step towards reconciliation. It could also be something as small as sharing an inspirational quote/article on your social media profiles. As Martin Luther King says, “you can either react with bitterness or turn your suffering into a creative force.” I’m sure you’ll make the right choice- because there’s a place in your heart, and I know that it is love.