The arrest of Makandure Madush in Dubai, along with 30 other Sri Lankans at a party in Dubai, has given the media in the country much to write about and the opportunity for politicians to make allegations against one another. It has also activated the Sri Lanka Police to go after and probe the activities [...]


Institutional religion and mixed messages


The arrest of Makandure Madush in Dubai, along with 30 other Sri Lankans at a party in Dubai, has given the media in the country much to write about and the opportunity for politicians to make allegations against one another.

It has also activated the Sri Lanka Police to go after and probe the activities of those who have in the past, associated with Makandure Madush in some form or other.

A news item in the Daily Mirror yesterday, however, gives rise to a dimension that is different to the issues surrounding Madush’s arrest and the drug trade that is receiving the attention of the authorities at present. According to the Daily Mirror, the CID has revealed that Madush had donated a luxury building worth Rs 30 million to a temple in his hometown, in memory of his parents and his brother. It was also reported that he had spent lavishly on religious activities.

The Daily Mirror report reflects a very common phenomenon in this country, where those whose income is from proceeds of crime, or other questionable and anti social sources, generously spend a part of their ‘earnings’ on religious and charitable activities.

Such actions may be designed to achieve social acceptance or, may even be an attempt to assuage their own conscience for engaging in antisocial activities.

What is of larger social relevance is the role of institutional religion being indifferent to the tainted nature of such funds. While according to the CID a temple has benefited from Madush’s ‘generosity’, it is well known that the acceptance of tainted funds by those in authority is not limited to temples alone, but, in fact, extend to places of worship of other religions as well.

Even many charitable organisations readily accept such donations, without regard to the source of such funds.

Clearly, while such religious institutions or charitable organizations cannot be expected to conduct a rigorous due diligence with regard to the source of a benefactor’s funds, it behoves them to turn down an offer from someone well known to be involved in antisocial activity.

Apart from the fact that, accepting such tainted funds would amount to sanitizing such funds, it may even amount to giving a stamp of approval to antisocial activities which go against the very precepts of the religion that the receiving institution is committed to.

In a country which comprises followers of the four great religions of the world, one would expect social and individual behavior to be greatly influenced by such noble teachings. Unfortunately, there is a great disparity between the teachings of such religions and the collective and individual conduct of its followers.

The TV screens show on a daily basis, politicians and VIPs visiting places of religious worship and meeting with religious leaders. However, their interactions with such religious dignitaries do not seem to rub off on such politicians and VIPs who continue in their merry way, which are often at variance with the exhortations of such religious leaders.

Thus most of these visits seem to be more to project an image of religiosity, rather than to get the blessings and advice of the religious leaders. Otherwise, there is no real reason for them to visit places of religious worship with TV cameras in attendance. One hardly ever hears of a politician or VIP visiting a dignitary to obtain their advice on a particular matter.

Religious leaders should, therefore, guard against them being used to further the agenda or images of such individuals. In fact, religious leaders should avoid those who have indictments against them in Courts, visiting them in the full glare of publicity, as if to project their innocence.

An indictment served on an individual must not be taken lightly. The Attorney General serves an indictment on an individual only after serious consideration of the evidence against such an individual. The act of serving such an indictment is an indication there is sufficient evidence, if proved in a court of Law, to find the accused guilty of the offence charged.

Religious leaders, therefore, need not have any qualms in refusing an audience that generates publicity to those with indictments in Courts. However, the religious leaders may, if they so wish, grant private audiences to such individuals who may wish to obtain blessings for their court cases or, if they wish to confess to their crimes, on the strict condition that no publicity is given to such visits.

When persons accused of the most heinous crimes are sent to remand prison, TV screens show religious leaders visiting them and showering blessings on them. Here too, publicity is socially damaging, while discreet visits to bless such suspects are in order.

Publicity in the above situations sends the wrong messages to the less discerning public and more so, to the younger generation. The youth and schoolchildren are sure to be confused to see the same religious leaders who advise them to tread the straight and narrow path, interacting with those charged with various crimes.

Today’s youngsters are savvy to what is happening around them, with their exposure to TV and social media in particular. The conduct of adults and religious leaders, in consorting with suspects and accused in different cases, can, therefore, leave them utterly confused.

While on the subject of the conduct of religious leaders, it is useful to consider the role of religion in Schools. Should religion be taught in schools, where it is reduced to a subject to obtain high grades and has no impact on individual conduct.

With the high pressure, examination oriented academic environment in Schools, teachers of religions have little or no time to mould their wards to conduct themselves in accordance with the religious teachings they imbibe.

The question is whether the cause of guiding the young ones in accordance with religious teachings is best left to the home and religious schools like Daham Pasalas, Sunday Schools and Madrasas, is something that must engage the attention of all concerned.

The social challenges that the youth of today face are different to what the previous generations faced. When one looks around, one cannot but conclude that the teaching of religions in schools is hardly equipping them to meet and overcome such challenges.



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