Cricket held up as alternative to sectarianism in Sri Lanka

By Ecumenical News International
April 12, 2007

Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo says his island nation, bleeding from deep ethnic divisions, should emulate the cohesion of the successful Sri Lankan cricket team currently in the Cricket World Cup - writes Anto Akkara.

"At this time of World Cup fervour, we can do well to remember it is not just the prowess of our team that is noteworthy. Its visible unity in ethno-religious diversity, which enhances its performance, is also remarkable," Bishop de Chickera noted in his recent Easter message.

The national cricket team comprises members of the ethnic minority Tamils and majority Sinhalase. It has players from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths. Bishop de Chickera noted it "should spur our nation towards a similar goal of unity in diversity".

Sri Lanka is one of the top contenders for a semi-final berth in the ongoing World Cup cricket in the West Indies after beating strong teams like India and England.

"The players of different ethnic and religious background have knit together so well and play as a team. This raises hopes not only for Sri Lankan cricket, but also for the future of our island," Bishop de Chickera told Ecumenical News International on 10 April from Jaffna – the Tamil heartland in the far north. "If our nation of different ethnic backgrounds can bat together as a team, certainly there can be lasting peace."

Around 40 civilians were killed during Holy Week alone at the beginning of April in bomb blasts, indiscriminate shelling and sporadic shootings.

The latest of bloodshed occurred on 7 April when a pastor, Yesu Kumar, from the Assemblies of God Church in Vankalai perished along with six others in a bus bomb blast while more than 20 people were injured.

The defence ministry has said more than 4000 people had died due to violence between December 2005 and the first week of March 2007. This includes 675 civilians and 1040 security personnel in the latest upsurge of fighting. The Tamil Tigers have waged a 35-year campaign for independence in a conflict that has claimed nearly 65,000 lives on the island.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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