A Lenten Reflection By Bishop Duleep de Chickera
“I wandered between two worlds; one dying and the other powerless to be born” – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
While Jesus was on the cross a vile drama was taking place at his feet. Roman soldiers sat dividing his garments. Each took a portion and then they drew lots for one without a seam. The soldiers displayed discipline. There was even a semblance of democratic justice.
This is Empire; oozing with order and smooth logic that conceal its ruthless oppression. As it crushes all in its path, its ‘under-class’ accomplices get some of the spoils. They have to. After all they do the dirty work for Empire. They quell unrest and face uprisings to protect Empire greed and interests.
Empire only exists for Emperors and their families and cohorts. But it cannot survive without assistance from the ‘under-class’. So they are enticed, and patronised but never included. The choicest pickings are not for them. They are the indispensible dispensible; a lesson the ‘under-class’ learns too late.
And so, the soldiers calmly draw lots, unaware of their own lot. Empire is a limited company with regulated rewards. The clothes of the dying is all the ‘under-class’ will get for protecting real criminals.
There was another drama by the cross. Four grieving persons; three women and a man, stand as close as possible to the smell of death. It was dangerous to stand too close. The man they grieved over was being executed as a criminal.
The four are in anguish. The dying man made sense in their lives. He was family and friend. They had no words for this terrible act of Empire violence, only anxiety. What would happen next? Will Empire prevail for ever?
The dying man breaks the silence. His words are astonishing. They reveal his stature and endorse all he stood for. “Son, here is a mother, woman here is a son,” he urges. While the four worried, he was thinking of ‘what next’, for them. In distress and misery caused by Empire, they were never to forget that they are family; sons and mothers, daughters and fathers. They belong together.
These selfless words convey the clearest answer to fear and desperation in the face of Empire. Stand together. It can be done. The time tested wisdom of the ages is endorsed on the cross. The only answer to Empire brutality is human solidarity. Together, humans can dismantle Empire. This is the story of our common human past and this is why reading history from the victim’s perspective is compulsory.
A contemporary drama
The nation witnessed a strong demonstration of community solidarity soon after the recent Mirihana protest. In an unprecedented move, scores of lawyers descended to stand with those arrested; clapping with dignity when they were sighted.
Stunned by this act of solidarity, some uniformed personnel, slowly stretched tall. Their body language said it all. Understandably their lips were sealed.
Human solidarity is a good germ. When demonstrated it spreads faster than COVID-19, and no vaccination in the world can stop it.
This act of solidarity made the difference. Those who represented the law and practised the law stood with those in desperate need of the rule of law. Victims and families knew they were not alone.
Public protest against government incompetence and corruption bursts out every day to teach new lessons on resistance through solidarity. The lawyer intervention is an outstanding model for all responsible citizens.
Academics, professionals, farmers, fishers, administrators, artistes, media personnel, business persons, sportspersons, trade unionists, the clergy; any and all who lay claim to a profession or vocation or responsible citizenship, are to take heed. To stand together visibly, in situations of personal and social injustice is an act of human responsibility.
To remain silent, on the other hand, when people suffer humiliation and injustice under their carers, is untenable. It is tantamount to drawing lots for whatever spoils the condemned leave behind.
With peace and blessings to all.