Sri Lanka bishop urges 'Day of Lament' over state of nation

(Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte)Lawyers wear black cloths across their faces to protest against the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke at the Supreme Court's premises in Colombo January 11, 2013. Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa appointed Mohan Peiris as Chief Justice on January 15.

A Sri Lankan Anglican bishop has proposed that his parishes observe a Day of Lament on Feb. 3 to grieve over the state of the country, saying in a letter to church members there has been a "collapse of the rule of law."

"It is with a heavy heart that I write it, the reason being that in the past few days we have seen the complete collapse of the rule of law in our nation. We no longer appear to be a constitutional democracy," wrote the Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey in recent statement.

The reaction by the Rev. Canagasabey comes after the government fired the nation's most senior judge, a move which critics say is an attack on judicial independence. The president appointed a close ally as chief justice.

He said the breakdown of accountability within the branches of government has been building up over the past several years, with the Executive and Legislature disregarding the Constitution, "giving the appearance of a country ruled on the principle that "Might is Right."

He said the government had received warnings from the church, other religious groups and civil society bodies. However he added that there is a "climate of fear and helplessness where people remain silent rather than speak out against rampant injustice, intimidation, violence and falsehoods."

"We as a Christian Church cannot remain silent in this situation," he said. "The Church is called to be such a prophetic presence and voice in our local communities, our places of work, our schools and in the wider society."

He said the church needed to repent for times when its members have "been silent when we should have spoken," "allowed ourselves (thoughtlessly or out of fear) to be used by those in authority to speak lies or commit wrong and unjust acts," and "consciously received benefits for ourselves through acts of injustice committed against others."

For the Day of Lament, he proposed that all services should have an extended time of silence, prayer and intercessions, to grieve over the state of the country today. He encouraged all parishioners to where white and fast whenever possible.

He called for the "Time of Lament" to continue for a second day on Feb. 4 at the cathedral for another service.

He also proposed that all parishes in the diocese have a series of bible studies, reflections and discussions during Lent.

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