Trying to understand Sri Lanka


A bit long, but very good article, which gave me such revelations as to why it is so difficult for Sri Lankans to really, truly become a united people:

Extremism is fuelled by ignorance. In Sri Lanka, every religious community has ghettoised itself. We interact less with each other and know less about each other than we did fifty years ago. This separation starts at school and continues right to the grave. We boast that Sri Lanka is home to four great religions, but our children are not taught even the basics of other religions. We know next to nothing of each other’s history. This ignorance provides a fertile ground for extremists of all varieties. It makes the task of demonising and dehumanising the religious Other easier.

I was only partially aware that schools here are not only separated by gender, but also by religion. There is a strong ‘We – them’ thinking, fostered from as early as kindergarten.

The other very insightful bit is how not having a common language (English was introduced as an official language only a while ago, and only the younger, well educated here have a decent command of it) leads to misunderstandings, which triggered the most recent riots:

The outburst of anti-Muslims violence began on 12th Sunday in Chilaw (the inciting incident seemingly was a Facebook post by a Muslim trader with deficient English and a cavalier attitude towards punctuation; it was translated into Sinhala by a Sinhalese whose knowledge of English was even poorer). Within hours, the violence spread to other parts of the North Western Province and to Gampaha district. Undeterred by the curfew or the presence of the security forces, the mobs attacked and burnt, as they did in Digana in 2018, Aluthgama in 2014 and nationally during Black July.

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