Catholics and Buddhists in Sri Lanka unite to pay their respects to an influential Buddhist monk who passed away in November. In a rare feat, his death was able to bring Catholics and Buddhists together.
UCA News reports that the death of Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero affected minority Catholics in Sri Lanka as the Buddhist majority. Venerable Sobitha, who many lauded for his role in altering Sri Lanka's political landscape, passed away Nov. 8 in Singapore. He was there to be treated for his heart surgery and was only 73.
On Nov. 23, Catholics shared the grief of the Buddhists by paying Venerable Sobitha a tribute with a memorial service, held at the St. Thomas' Church in Kotte, Colombo.
According to Catholics who knew who Venerable Sobitha was, he deserves the tribute for all that he did. They said he was a rare figure to have transcended the faith divide, citing how the Buddhist monk worked with the church closely.
"[He] talked straight despite political or color differences," shared Father Leo Perera, a priest who took part in the service. "The monk showed how we can be involved in social and political activities without getting involved in politics or being carried away by political parties."
When asked why Catholics cannot be socially and politically involved easily, the priest answered that the have a "minority complex."
The Buddhist monk was a well-known figure in Sri Lanka's politics. He was an outspoken religious person who spoke out against corruption. He even challenged the country's leaders when at a time, they wielded high level of power.
Prior to last January's presidential elections, Venerable Sobitha and his organization, The National Movement for a Just Society," took a risky and unpopular move by backing an alternative candidate against Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was a powerful incumbent. Rajapaksa lost, and Maithripala Sirisena wine. Sirisena promoted ethnic reconciliation and claimed the monk's support was a significant reason why he won.
According to the Daily Mirror, who covered the unprecedented memorial service of thanksgiving, claimed that the service is a "major step towards inter-religious dialogue and unity." "One of the priority goals in Venerable Sobitha's vision and mission for a new Sri Lanka was multiracial, multireligious and multicultural unity in diversity," read the editorial. "He spoke out sincerely and strongly for people of all races and religions to respect, promote and even celebrate diversity."
Even on his death, he was able to achieve this.