Sri Lanka: Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayapu Joseph — The Prophet of our Time

The meaning of the voice of Bishop Rayappu is that justice should be a flowing steam and righteousness a river flowing without drying up. A prophet while witnessing the truth tries to warn of the dangers ahead.


This is a story of a man who dedicates himself to propagate the Kingdom of God(Kingdom Values) and established a Just and Peaceful country for all those Men and Women who born, live and die together as members of one family. He is one who has devoted himself to achieving spiritual liberation, but in his it is not only for him, but more importantly, for the sake of others, specially the Tamil language speaking people live in North and East of Sri Lanka who have humiliated, brutally killed, suffered for more than 50 years in the history and he is doing so from the Island of Mannar situated in North predominantly Tamil population live.


by Susil Hettiarachchi

( October 10, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) We have confused and complicated our struggle in gaining independence as a country which had been colonized by the imperial powers for nearly five centuries, while our elder sister gained independence effectively; we paid allegiance to the imperial powers but was allergic to the use of English language. India opposed the imperial powers and preserved the English language. As a consequence, we and our children lost our way in social, economics and political development. Even in the field of education we have stranded ourselves.

As a nation, oppressed and exploited for a number of years, we should have forged our Sri Lankan identity by adopting a strategy recognizing the socio economic, political aspirations of all the communities who have inherited this country as their mother land. But what happened was that we engaged ourselves in a form of governance dividing the country already divided by the colonials.

India, through her intelligentsia was able to create a more democratic form of government and draft a constitution of her own. We blindly adopted a constitution drafted by the colonial masters. The republic constitution of 1972 and the 1978 constitution have shown our inability to unite our country. It was Dr.Colvin R. De Silva who prophetically acclaimed that one language create two countries and two languages create one country but the constitution developed by Dr. Colvin R. De Silva moved away from being secular state to a quasi religious state where Buddhism was tacitly entrenched as “de facto” state religion. The minority communities who were already discriminated in the use of language began to feel that they were totally sidelined and marginalized in the Sri Lankan republic that was born with that 1972 constitution.

As a nation, oppressed and exploited for a number of years, we should have forged our Sri Lankan identity by adopting a strategy recognizing the socio economic, political aspirations of all the communities who have inherited this country as their mother land.

Even the dreams in 1919to 1930 for a just and inclusive political system of people of the caliber of Mr. S W R D Bandaranayake who was conscious of the demographic composition of the country was aborted in the 1950’s for selfish political gain. Towards the end of 1950’s “pancha maha balawegaya”(five major forces ) gathered around Mr. Bandaranayake. This movement challenged the humanistic and democratic process in the country and thereby the whole nation was led to the extreme ends. This extremism was legalized by Mr Bandaranayake so called liberal leader, as a nation we continue to suffer politically, educationally and economically, as a consequence of the ill effects of the arbitrary and totally unjust steps taken by the S.W.R.D Bandaranayake government. It was since 1958 that the majority community began to harm and oppress the other communities who also have equal historical claim to Sri Lanka as Sinhalese. It was mainly the 18% of our population the Tamil speaking community who became the victims of this ceaselessly dastardly evil process. This community which was mercilessly suppressed and attacked brutally and violently in 1950, 1960, 1970 and 1980 decades continue to react in democratic ways but in 1980 they were pushed to their tethers end, compelling them to respond violently with arms and declare a civil war with the Sri Lankan state.

It is we the majority who have to take the responsibility of making the whole nation a victim of destruction. It is said that “what has gone cannot be drown back even by elephants and now we have to protect what is left.”

Therefore what we have to do is to be wise and humble to learn from the experience of the civilized world, who have experimented with deferent approaches and political strategies and create our own political system suitable for us. But unfortunately we are wasting our time on wearing masks and playing games with the intend of beating the others rather than searching for a durable solution. As a result of this, we are pawing the path for evil international forces to interfere with our sovereignty.

It is we the majority who have to take the responsibility of making the whole nation a victim of destruction. It is said that “what has gone cannot be drown back even by elephants and now we have to protect what is left.”


The deferent groups of political parties are making varied statements based on their own presumption and while away the time. The religious, political leaders and the policy makers have failed to act as socially responsible actors who are conscious of the tensions developing among the minority groups and the need of the time as a nation. Because of the inability to create a solution to these causes, the critical situation has become cancerous destroying the nation. Similarly all the problems that we are facing today are the accumulated results of the neglect of social responsibility by the socially responsible institute and organizations and also the procrastination of resolving the national question. Shading our myths and misconceptions but our efforts should be to search for a solution to our national question which has remained unsolved for decades. In this search we have to be open to global knowledge but place our top priority in the best inters of Sri Lanka which presently rests in healing and reconciliation of country.

The prophetic challenge

It is in this context that Bishop Rayappu Joseph Bishop of Mannar as a person who feels and experience the true reality of the Tamil speaking community raises his voice obeying the will of God whom he believes. Bishop Rayappu Joseph is the only person to raise a just voice for the Tamil speaking communities, who have suffered immensely by the severe oppression of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and the militarization of the Sri Lankan government. Observing the prophetic tradition of the Bible, we can see that the Bishop Rayappu is facing the same prophetic challenges. Every time a nation fell the Lord acted through prophets. Even today the same phenomenon is taking place. He proclaims that the future of the minorities should not be the same as in the past and that the time has come to deviate from the unjust patterns. Moreover the Bishop emphasizes that peace should prevail in the country and for this justice should be meted out. Fulfilling justice is not an individual function but a result of a socially collective process.(the sovereignty of the minority cannot be established only by His Excellency The President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime minister Mr. Ranil Wicramasinge . (It is the responsibility of all the political parties and the democratic social forces.)

In the face of the oppression of our people as a result of not meeting out justice through the people due for various social injustices the Lord cries out “ woe to those who makes unjust laws ,to those who issues oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppress of my people”. Isaiah 10,1-2 Holy Bible.

The meaning of the voice of Bishop Rayappu is that justice should be a flowing steam and righteousness a river flowing without drying up. A prophet while witnessing the truth tries to warn of the dangers ahead. It is this challenge the Bishop attempts to show that a golden opportunity has dawn after 30 years of war to search for a meaningful solution to the long delayed national question he predicts that the consequences of our failure to solve this problem through sincere dialog among the deferent stake holders would lead to an unimaginable crisis. Therefore the history (God) has entrusted the members of the majority community of the responsibility to be shouldered and also orient the responsible individuals and authorities towards this responsibility. Therefore who libel against the Bishop has belittled his commitment and has the obligation to search for the answer for the reality he reveals with a widen heart and a critical mind.(The essence of the statement of repentance made to the nation by Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranayaka Kumaranatunga on 4th. February 1998 commemorating the 50th. Anniversary of Independence is an admission of the failure to forge a strongly united nation amidst its diversity of different ethnicities. In the same way during the period what we did was not to use those diversities for our progress but to unleash processes destroying the total features of our society.)

The reality the Bishop faced

Since the beginning of human civilization the critical challenge that the human had to face was the ownership and the right to utilize land and water. As a nation we are endowed with the just and righteous models and strategies of the ancient civilization and also from the era of Lord Buddha in Indian history. But even today we have failed to find a solution acceptable to all the communities to address core factor of the ownership and the utilization of land that is affecting the different communities. What Bishop Rayappu repeatedly proclaimed is the disinheritance of their land ownership and the ill effects of this disinheritance.

“Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens. Our homes for foreignness. We have become orphans and fatherless. Our mothers like widows. We must buy the water we drink. Our wood can be had only at a price”.( Holy Bible lamentations 5:1-4)

Because of the increase in demand for land in the context of the future economic expansion of Mannar due to the “fuel- gas economy” already external actors giving various reasons are either acquiring or buying and owning the land belonging to the people of Mannar. It was because of disclosing this reality, that Bishop Rayappu was blamed and shamed by the parliamentarian Reshard Baduddeen using his parliamentary privileges. These evil forces are trying to silence the prophetic voice of the time. All over the history the just men who voiced against the perpetuation of injustice against the powerless have had to face harassment and even to compensate by giving the ones life.

“Come, let’s plot against Jeremaiah for the teaching of the law by the priest will not be lost nor will counsel from neither the wise nor the words from the prophet to proclaim the word. So come let us attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to any thing he says.”(Holy Bible Jeremiah 18:18) “They crucified Him” (Holy Bible John 19:18)

Man who challenged Prabakaran

The mental stress caused by a delayed unresolved problem eventually explodes in a violent nature. This has been clearly evident by the struggle of our people against the oppression by the colonial power for years. Similarly the insurrection that erupted in 1971, 1988/89 are violent reactions to prolong situation of suppression among the youth. The northern insurgency that irrupted in 1972 and repressed in 2009 also was the result of fighting against all suppressive forces that denied their hope and aspiration. They released their anger in a violent way resulting in destruction (experience 1971, 1988/89 and 30 years war)

The basic problem of the Tamil speaking people still remain unresolved. It has become a stalemate. It is like “unquenched thirst”. Because of his strong stand the Bishop became a severe target of LTTE.

The only person who could challenge V Prabakaran the live force of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) was Bishop Rayappu. His challenge was to search for the nature and the discipline of the mode for securing the self dignity and the sovereignty of his people. His stand on this was that of following the teaching of the Christ and the Church on society, the rights of minorities and their human freedom and political freedom and aspiration. Inspired by these social teaching of the church Bishop Rayappu opted for the liberation of his people who have been made powerless. He proclaimed the truth about justice and peace emerging from the teaching of Jesus: the human being have to be free from fear and oppression but he could not make the struggle of his people for an authentic liberation, a meaningful struggle responding to the prophetic call of the time.

The basic problem of the Tamil speaking people still remain unresolved. It has become a stalemate. It is like “unquenched thirst”. Because of his strong stand the Bishop became a severe target of LTTE. He has also become a victim of accusation and humiliations by the extremist of the majority community and also as well as by the other minorities. What is ridicules in this context is that even some of the Sinhala Catholics are considering the Bishop as a pro LTTE persons. Their behavior show that they are more attracted to the secular power than to exemplary life of our LORD who scarified His life for a just and righteous society.

The Mystique who cried at the loose of his children

As the war continued Bishop Rayappu agonizingly prayed and meditated deeply. He commented “the children, the future promise of the Lord and the hope of Sri Lanka are falling dead, their bodies are scattered. What remained for us was to turn to Jesus love Him and wait for justice”

Bishop Rayappu the mystic through his praying and meditating has remained true to his Christian calling to protect and promote human life by opposing all the inhuman, violent forces and thereby bring about a democratic human society full of hope and fill with love and affection. He has gracefully proved his commitment to this vision of a democratic humane society full of hope and fills with love and affection.

The deferent actors who have misunderstood his liberative process continue to blemish him socially but the Lord and the Master of the creation speaks through prophet Isaiaa in Holy Bible.(50:8-11) “he who vindicate me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the sovereign Lord who help me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment the moths will eat them up. who among you fears the lord and obeys the word of his servent? Let him who walk in the dark who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches go walk in the light of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand; you will lie down in torment.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

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