Wealthy Dishonorable Leaders

  By Dhanushka Dilshan

Amid huge political tension due to the previous presidential election, the majority of Sri Lankans are disappointed because of dishonorable political leaders. Because of present dishonorable political leaders, we Sri Lankans suffer. Most Sri Lankans know our political leaders and their families are very wealthy because they are taking our money in unjust ways. Therefore, our society functions by unjust structures where our disreputable political leaders always benefit, and the poor are left to suffer. As a result, Sri Lanka needs honorable political leaders to liberate us from our suffering.

(continued from The Herald)

Today’s Gospel reading displays dishonorable, rich political leaders, and the poor. In the “rich man and Lazarus” parable, Jesus shows us the downfalls of huge wealth inequality. We can see in the Old Testament how Jewish society structures continuously maintained justice. For example, the laws of the sabbatical year and the jubilee were created (Lev 25:28 NRSV). In the sabbatical (seventh) year there was to be a remission of debts and in the jubilee (50th year), land which had been sold to pay off debts was to be returned to its original owners, and slaves were to be freed. Ultimately this structure reduced the gap between the rich and poor as the honorable rich always refrained from accumulating land, capital, and possessions at the expense of others and instead worked only to sustain the resources society had. But later within Jewish people, we can see a society always dominated by the rich and a massive gap between the wealthy and poor because of dishonorable tactics. Later, the dishonorable rich were not returning lands to original owners, forgiving the debt. The rich used their power to seize resources that rightfully belonged to others. Therefore, from this parable, Jesus emphasizes the harm in ongoing income inequality.

Yet today, like in Jesus’ time, as we see from the above example, dishonorable wealthy people are Sri Lanka’s politicians as well. Because of our dishonorable politician’s unjust regimes, many people are suffering. Therefore, environmental issues ensue including large-scale logging of forests and the degradation of mangroves, coral reefs, and soil. Air pollution and water pollution are challenges for Sri Lankans since both have negative health impacts. Insufficient waste management, especially in rural areas, leads to environmental pollution. Sri Lankans are also vulnerable to climate change impacts from extreme weather events and rises in sea-levels. Likewise, poverty in Sri Lanka continues to be a large problem and also religious and ethnic tension and violence. This has led to an economic and political crisis. Amid all these sufferings, politicians live luxury lifestyles without caring for the majority of the people.

In today’s first reading we can see the Prophet Amos scathingly denouncing dishonorable wealthy people in his time (Amos 6:1A, 4-7 NRSV). The dominant theme of the prophet Amos is justice. Justice is often associated with righteousness. Amos criticizes the dishonorable rich and defends the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Amos stands as an unequaled testimony for Jewish followers (Amos 6:1A, 4-7 NRSV). Amos has received much attention in our time because he is a useful and power-driven agent for Sri Lanka. Where does his social criticism derive from? What is its aim? It is directly applicable to our modern Sri Lankan situation.

What will we do together as a society that believes in a God “who executes justice for oppressed, who gives food to the hungry,” (Psalms 146:7 NRSV) to seek justice associated with righteousness amid dishonorable political leaders?

Therefore, as Paul stressed Christian virtues, along with perseverance with regard to the truth (1 Timothy 6: 11-16 NRSV) and a community who “pursues righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:1 NRSV), we should have perseverance with regard to justice over dishonorable leaders in our nation. The time as a nation has come to elect a new leader. We should pray to God asking for an honorable leader to liberate us from our sufferings. Many people from different countries are raising their voice against the dishonorable leaders to seek justice. As a Christian community, we too need to grasp that God did not send Moses to Pharaoh’s court to take up a collection of canned goods and blankets. God sent Moses to Pharaoh with a political challenge to let the Hebrew slaves go free. Likewise, as the prophet also did, we too need to raise our voices against our dishonorable leaders for political change in our nations. We should not let the moment pass us by. As a community in God’s Kindom, it is our responsibility to seek justice against the dishonorable from our prayers and commitments. We should not think it is another’s responsibility. God always expects “to do good; seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17 NRSV) from each of us. So let us start now onwards to do good and seek justice over the dishonorable wealthy in our countries.