In late 2018, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, publicly stated that there is no need to talk about human rights if one believes in religion.
“Human rights have become the new religion in the Western world. In the past, there was no such thing as human rights but people lived with love and respect and trust in God. This is like a wonderful new discovery they keep in mind and they always tell us that. Religion in European countries often referred to as human rights, is like wearing a coat. Somewhat which you can wear when you need it and throw it away when you don’t need it. Religion is practiced when an advantage is needed and religion is discarded when a sacrifice is needed. This is spreading in our country as well. Some of them are talking about a secular society. There is no secular society. People’s lives are not limited to food, clothing, and comfort. If we believe in religion, we do not need to talk about human rights. We can live beyond human rights. The religions we believe in have human rights. What else is needed? So dear brothers and sisters, we should not be deceived by this magic. We must act wisely here ”
The Cardinal made this public statement while addressing a service on September 23, 2018, at St. Matthew’s Church, Ekala.
More than three years later, the cardinal met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 2, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. That is to get the UN Human Rights Council to do justice to the victims of the Easter attack.
The Easter Sunday attack has not happened in the country when the cardinal made his first statement, but the country has been plagued by a number of human rights abuses over the decades. But since they did not directly affect the cardinals, the clergy had no regard for human rights. That is why he appealed to his followers not to be deceived by human rights.
But shortly after the Easter attack on the Catholic Church, the cardinal’s situation changed. Now that the issue is directly affecting them, he too has to seek human rights. However, devotees who believed the Cardinal’s speech in 2018 are now facing a dilemma. That is because the cardinals now want the human rights that they did not want then. This is because it has become a big thing today for those who say that human rights are nothing new or big.
We stand for human rights then and today and will continue to do so. Those of us who opposed the Cardinal’s statement back then may have said today, “What happened to the Cardinal…?.” He said.
We have no peace with those who despise, insult, or ridicule human rights – a great achievement of human society in its long evolution.
And here is another point to keep in mind. In the aftermath of the Easter attack, the cardinal desperately wanted to overthrow the then Yahapalana government. Now it seems he too has been fed up with the current government.
It could not have gone unnoticed by the then Cardinal that the present government was formed in partnership with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, a major player in the previous government. Despite this, the present government was formed with his full blessings.
The question for us is whether the people will abide by the cardinal’s request to go and do their duty again in the next election. Should the people really overthrow the government to the point where the cardinal gets bored? How do people know exactly where the cardinal is wrong and where he is not, as in the case of human rights?