ECONOMYNEXT – One of the country’s biggest Chapter of Buddhist Monks the joint Amarapura-Ramanna sect is asking President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to permit the burial of the remains of Christians and Muslims who die of Covid 19.
This is the first time that a major group of Buddhist Monks have taken a stand to allow burials since the controversy broke in April. A letter sent to the President is also signed by the former Bishop of the Methodist Church Fr Asiri Perera, Fr Jayalath Balagalle from the Roman Catholic Ampitiya Seminary and Kurukukkal P Sivaloganathan of the Sanatana Dharma Research centre.
Signed by the joint Registrars of the Amarapura and Ramanna sects, the letter addressed to the President says the decision to send the appeal to the head of state was made after lengthy discussions with the sect’s Inter-religious Sub-Committee.
The letter noted that the burial of dead bodies is a revered “religious practice including Islam and Christianity” and this right is protected by the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
However, the letter added that this right is subject to restrictions subject to public health.
It said that the decision issued by a gazette notification on April 11 this year making cremation mandatory was taken soon after the outbreak of the pandemic and “we believe it was a precautionary measure taken due to the lack of biological knowledge” about the Covid 19 virus.
The letter went on to say that “now after more than 8 months later, and with a considerable body of research available about the nature of the Covid 19 virus, and results indicating that there is no danger of this virus spreading by the burial of Covid 19 dead bodies, we are of the opinion that there is no justification for the mandatory cremation of those who have died of Covid 19.”
“At this time we take the view that the burials of those who have died due to Covid 19 infection should be allowed subject to certain conditions which would adequately protect the health of the people on one side and the religious practices of the Muslims, Catholics and other religious groups,” the letter asserted.
The letter suggested that the bodies could be buried in concrete or other impervious containers and could be monitored to assure the authorities that it is safe.
The Sects also appealed to the President to convene a meeting of experts to seek advice on the matter.
In a separate statement the Registrar of the Sub-committee Dr Madampagama Assaji Thero, Anunayake of the sect said that this would avoid the government having to face an uncomfortable situation and avoid unnecessary unrest within the Muslim community. (Colombo, December 27, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana
The statement can be viewed here in full: