Christians in Sri Lanka will be caught between two very different celebrations on Good Friday which is also their New Year's Day. Observed not only by the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans, Aluth Avurudda or the Sinhalese New Year celebrates the traditional Lunar New Year, which this year fall on April 14. Amidst the sound of firecrackers, drums and family celebrations, it will be tough for Christians to rein in with Good Friday prayer, fasting, the Way of the Cross and visiting churches, to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus.
However, Ajitha Ranjani, a Catholic teacher, has a compromising solution. "Even though the New Year falls on Good Friday there will be no change in the way we will experience the passion, suffering and death of Jesus. We will celebrate the New Year with our Buddhist friends the following day," she said.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said that when Catholics celebrate Good Friday this year they should be aware that it is also a time of joyous celebration for Buddhists, who make up most of the population. Cardinal Ranjith said in Messenger, a Catholic weekly, that it would be necessary to conduct Good Friday services in a manner that would not hurt the feelings of the Buddhists.
Bishop Justin Bernard Gnanapragasm of Jaffna, who is based in the former epicenter of the civil war between Tamil and Singhalese, said he was delighted to wish all his Tamil and Singhalese friends a happy and prosperous New Year. "May you all receive God's grace abundantly this year and may His grace help you in your task to be good citizens," he said. In a New Year and Easter message the bishop observed that "three decades of war are now over and the government has to work hard to bring back normalcy to the lives of Tamil people.” "People who are still in internally displaced people camps should be resettled and political prisoners must be released. Responsibility has to be taken for the rehabilitation of ex-combatants and justice has to be sought for war crimes," he added.
Sri Lanka's 20.5 million people are approximately 70 percent Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 8 percent Christian and 7 percent Muslim. (Source: UCAN)