Sri Lanka: Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s Crusade

April 15, 2019

On March 31, 2019, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka), led an anti-drug march, which was attended by President Maithripala Sirisena, who has just reinstated the death penalty for traffickers.

In a pastoral circular dated March 2019, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith wrote, “the situation in our country and especially in our archdiocese is critical...that is why I am organizing a special day of prayers and a public meeting to protest against the consumption and trafficking of hard drugs.”

So, on Sunday, March 31, after Mass, the parishioners of the Diocese of Colombo marched through the streets of the capital to denounce drugs, that “scourge that corrupts and kills.”

Cardinal Ranjith also asked parish priests to exclude those who engage in drug trafficking, including those who consume drugs, from the sacraments and prohibit public funerals for them. Indeed, drug consumption is spreading dramatically among young people, especially in schools.

Since the February 2002 ceasefire between the Tamil Tigers and Colombo, the Palk Strait—the strait separating Sri Lanka from India—has become a no-go zone, where drugs from the mainland easily enter the region. The Sri Lankan Anti-Narcotics Unit estimates that about 45,000 people regularly consume heroin and around 200,000 cannabis.

This situation led the head of state, on February 12, 2019, to restore the death penalty for traffickers. Maithripala Sirisena does not hide that he has been inspired in this matter by the policies of his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte.