Statement on Sri Lanka from Religious and Spiritual Life

Dear Students,

Once again we are writing our horror, grief, and outrage about yet another massacre at a place where people were practicing their faith, this time on Easter, the highest of Holy Days for Christians.

While the Christian and Catholic Churches have perpetrated great violence for centuries, today they too are persecuted

A woman partakes in a vigil at a college in Kolkata, India, in solidarity with the victims of the Sri Lanka bombings on Easter Day. Photo courtesy of Reuters

minorities in some areas. Like Islam and Judaism and Buddhism and all other world religions, at the heart of Christianity is a message of love.

Once again we could be at a loss of words, thinking about how many times we have sent out these notes of outrage, solidarity, and grief.

Once again we ask ourselves what can we possibly say to each other, especially to those with close ties to Sri Lanka or surrounding nations, to the Buddhists who make up the majority religion there, to the Muslim minority, or to those Christians who feel threatened and unsafe entering a place of worship?

Once again how do we make any sense of this tragedy or find any words for one another?

In fact, while contemplating this confounding question we realized not despite but because of, the pervasiveness of this type of violence in recent months and years, we are not increasingly unable to find the words—we are rather ever abler to see and hence articulate the truth at the center of all of these massacres and more:

Fear is fertile ground for more fear.

Violence is the inception point for more violence

Fear breeds more fear.

Sri Lankans have been affected over the years by colonialism, the persecution of Muslims, and the division of Christians. All these things contributed to the radicalization of young people who then carry out these heinous acts. So as we look outward to the communities victimized by this indescribable violence, what can we do?

We can look inward and refuse to victimize anyone by acts of erasure, dismissal, or even verbal violence.

We can seek to understand even those whose ideas we disdain, we can push ourselves and one another to walk in the shoes of another, even as we work to abolish their policies, refuse their rules, or demand changes in their structures they uphold.

We can also look closely at how—or what—the true enemies are, –hate, violence, and fear–and seek to find allies in one another across differences which might in the end, be less significant than we think.

We can refuse to other or dismiss the faithful, for through religion many people find meaning in the face of meaninglessness and courage in the face of terror.

We can refuse to foment further prejudice against Muslims, as the radicalized terror cells must be disassociated completely and entirely from the Islamic faith.

Jesus is quoted in scripture as saying:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your God in heaven; for God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good

Theologian Walter Wink notes that centuries of misinterpretation of this passage, claiming that when Jesus said “turn the other cheek” he meant to  not to allow your enemies to humiliate you, for in Jesus’s time to “backhand” an “inferior” with your left hand was in fact an insult yourself. To give a Roman soldier your cloak was to make visible the inhumane practice of usury. Jesus  was in fact advocating a form of civil disobedience, in which enemies were disarmed and robbed of their power to humiliate and victimize.

As we mourn this act of violence, as we have so many others, let us also refuse to fall victim to hate, fear, and oppression. Easter is the holiday of resurrection, so let us in solidarity resurrect hope, courage, and love for one another.


We can also refuse to be desensitized, refuse to stop praying-each in our own ways—and refuse to stop gathering to mourn and hope together,

So please join us for a vigil, Monday, 4/29, on Chapin Deck at noon


In faith and solidarity,

Matilda Rose Cantwell and the CRSL staff:

Kim Alston

Maureen Raucher

Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

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