Label jars, not people

Free editorial on June 22

Stripped of all the clothes we wear to be part of the ethnic communities we ‘belong’ to, we will all look the same. The only way people will be able to label us is by skin color and sex.
However, these people are then introduced to this thing called religion. The funny thing about religion is that while it preaches about unity, it often encourages the opposite. Of course you can disagree and say that the leaders of these religions never laid down these rules and regulations.
All rules are manmade, as are all religions. We decide on what’s good and evil, what’s right and wrong. We decide on what will send us to heaven and what will send us to hell.
With religion comes add-ons to ourselves.  There are the vows and promises to be a better and more religious human being. However, there are other add-ons, the more visible kind.
People are identified as Buddhists if they wear a talisman or pirith nool. The sanga is identified by those robes that range from yellow to maroon. We look for white or red powder or paste on the forehead when identifying a person as a Hindu. We look for a rosary or cross when identifying a person as a Catholic or Christian. And we look for the beards, caps, burqa or shawl when identifying people as Muslim.
So, once those naked people take on the garments and various accessories they feel they should because of their race, religion or culture, they become people who aren’t similar. We are able to create more labels than skin color and sex. We categorize people by their nationality, race, religion, caste, beliefs and culture.
Take a human. They could be male or female. If born in our island, he/she’ll be a Sri Lankan. They could be Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher and can believe in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. He/she could belong to a particular sect of any of these religions.
While we are told to respect all people and all beliefs, we don’t actually do this. We believe that our religion is the best, our ethnicity is the best. Ethnicities claim ownership of countries, cities, neighborhoods, schools, companies and people. And when people belong to a particular religion or ethnicity and they try to force their beliefs on other people, there is conflict. Keep your rules and regulations, definitions of right and wrong, to yourself.
We can attempt to pinpoint where all the trouble started. Who was the first person to be aware of these differences between people? Who raised their voice first? Who is the bad guy?
We can post status updates, we can change our profile pictures, but we need to do much more than this. We need to stop categorizing people. We need to stop discriminating. We need to tell people that we’ve had enough with being different.
Listen. Understand. Accept. Tolerate.
It’s not that difficult to do.


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