Check Point Blues

Written in November 2005



Ajith Fernando


Our Board Chairman Brian Blacker had a teacher who used to say, “The geography of your face reveals the history of your race.” But not with me! At different times I have been identified as a Sinhala, a Tamil and a Muslim—the three main races of Sri Lanka. I am very happy about this for many reasons. One is that I am able to go through what Tamils go through at check points.


On a recent trip to the North and East of Sri Lanka most of the security personnel we encountered at check points were very polite. But three times I was subjected to rude responses from young policemen. Once I glared angrily at one of them, but later I felt I should have asked him why he needed to be so rude. This is something that must be stopped if we are to hope for peace between the races.


I was very angry for a few hours after these incidents. This was, firstly, because I felt humiliated by being spoken to abusively by these young policemen.


Secondly, I was angry because impoliteness is contrary to the Christian ethic. In his famous passage on the use of the tongue James says that one reason why speak well to others is because they are made in the image of God (James 3:9). Christians must always be gracious and never speak derogatorily to any one even when they are rebuking them. To speak derogatorily to someone is to rebel against God’s plan for creation—a very serious sin.


Thirdly, I was angry because there are some people who have to face this abuse all the time. My brother, who worked as a doctor in the East, has a lot of experiences to share of such abuse. When the representatives of the government act in a way that dehumanises minorities they lose the desire for peaceful co-existence with the majority community. This in turn is a great hindrance to the peace process.


But as I grappled with this anger I realised that I cannot keep this attitude going. For one thing it takes away my joy which is what makes the cost of discipleship worth it. I know that I must not live even half a day without this precious treasure.


I know that if I keep this anger inside it will come out in a crisis, or in a tense situation. I will end up hurting someone else and not be an influence for good in this world that is already soured by an epidemic of bitterness. There is a sense in which I should remain angry about these actions and do what I can to stop them. But I cannot live with the bitter anger which takes away my “joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13).


So several times during this trip I prayed to God not to let the actions of bad people take away my joy. They don’t deserve that honour. Anger over unrighteousness must remain and motivate us to action. But always the dominant emotion in our life must be the joy of the Lord who is greater that every circumstance we face.


Now my anger is tinged with compassion for these young policeman who are also made in the image of God but do not know the salvation which helps them realise the glory of that.