Sri Lanka: Compulsory Cremation Divides Society

Source: FSSPX News

Since January 8, 2020, the Colombo authorities have made compulsory the cremation of the bodies of the deceased carried away by Covid-19. While the measure was received favorably by the island’s Buddhist majority, the same is not true for the Christian and Muslim minorities, who see it as a fundamental attack on freedom of religion.

The motivation for the executive’s decision came from the Sri Lankan government’s chief epidemiologist who told the BBC that “burials could contaminate underground drinking water.”

An assessment that is shared neither by the World Health Organization (WHO), nor by the Sri Lanka Medical Association, both of whom believe that there is no proof to date of transmission of the disease in cases where the deceased was buried.

The government issued its decision after receiving recommendations from a commission of eleven medical experts supported by Buddhist officials, traditionally in favor of cremation.

According to the decree now in force, corpses must be cremated at a temperature of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius, over a minimum period of 45 minutes, in order to achieve complete combustion.

A decision that weighs on the religious minorities of the country attached to the practice of the burial of the deceased: Christians as well as Muslims, who represent respectively 7% and 10% of the population.

The Catholic hierarchy of the island did not want to take a position due to the political context where relations between the State and the Church are already tense, the latter accusing the authorities of culpable negligence in the Easter 2019 attacks, which cost the lives of some 258 faithful celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord: “the incineration of the victims of Covid is a problem which concerns families and on which the Church does not wish to intervene,” stated Fr. Jude Krishantha, spokesperson for the episcopate, sidestepping the issue.

Several priests, sisters, and lay people of various Christian denominations have decided not to stop there, signing a petition calling for an end to cremations: “our leaders are robbing us of all our rights, from birth to death,” denounces Noël Christeen Fernando, a religious sister of the Sisters of Charity, who signed the letter of protest.

Remember that if the cremation of bodies is not contrary to natural law, since the Church allows it in time of war or epidemic, this authorization has the value of an exception, because such a practice is contrary to the Christian tradition of the burial, specific to inculcating in the soul of the faithful the great religious truths concerning the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the flesh, and the particular dignity of the human body, since it is signed with the seal of holy Baptism.

Since November 2019, Sri Lanka has been facing a rebound in the previously contained Covid-19 epidemic, it seems to be on the rise again since the discovery on the island of the famous English variant, which is much more contagious.