Sri Lanka continues to be caught in an escalating civil war between the majority Buddhist and minority Hindu factions, although there is an emergence of a religious peace movement.
The Buddhist magazine Tricycle (Winter) notes that nationalism and opportunism have as much to do with the decades-old conflict as religion. The conflict mainly centers on the Sri Lankan government and army, dominated by Buddhists, fighting Tamil rebels from breaking off large sections of the country’s north and east as a nation for Tamils, who are mainly Hindu.
A lone ecumenical peace effort has emerged in recent years, the Sri Lankan Sarvodaya movement, which was started by Buddhist A.T. Ariyaratne and follows Ghandian non-violence. But reporter Barabar Crossette says the success of the Sarvodaya movement has so far been small. “Iconoclastic” scholarship has attempted to explain why a non-violent religion such as Buddhism could host such a bloody war.
Crossette cites the work of University of Virginia professor H.L. Senevirratne, a Sri Lankan anthropologist, who has created recent controversy in his claim that mass Buddhism on the island has sunk to self-serving ritual and has become bound to caste, kinship and ethnicity, “forgetting the universalism” in the religion needed to override ethnic strife.
(Tricycle, 92 Vandam St., New York, NY 10013)