Rishvin Ismath from Sri Lanka: “Some of us are forced to pray five times a day”

#GlobalHumanismNow: an update from Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka

  • blog Type / Membership blog
  • Date / 20 April 2020
  • By / Mahalet Tadesse

#GlobalHumanismNow is a series of mini-interviews with our Members and Associates from all around the world where we ask them how they are coping with the global coronavirus emergency, to explain what initiatives they are taking, and to tell us how the global humanist community can support them.

All interviews are available here.

Today we speak with Rishvin Ismath, Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka.

Humanists International: Hi Rishvin, thank you for accepting our invitation. What is the situation in your country, Sri Lanka?

Rishvin: A curfew was implemented on 19 March and it still applies. We are not allowed to go out for any reason – including buying essentials. The curfew is lifted in parts of the country for a few hours, twice a week but the major cities are under complete curfew. It is very concerning how the curfew is affecting the daily wage earners disproportionally.

The spread of the coronavirus has not peaked yet and as of today (16.04.2020) it is somewhat under control.

(UPDATE: as of 20 April, Sri Lanka has 254 cases and 7 deaths)

How has the government responded to the crisis? 

The Parliament was dissolved nearly two months ago but the President and some Ministers are still in office. The hospitals and other health services are on high alert due to the virus. Also, the police and the military are supporting health service activities and ensuring national order.

How has the crisis affected your organization and the individuals within it?

Members of CEMSL back in 2018, during their 2nd AGM. Their faces are blurred because they cannot publicly say that they are atheists

We do not have an opportunity to hold any gatherings, meetings and meetups. Everybody has to stay in their homes.

Most members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka are stressed, especially those of us that are now forced to do the five daily Islamic prayers together with their family members. We have also three members that are quarantined in a center run by the government.

How is Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka responding to the crisis? 

All our members are respecting the laws and guidelines set by the government. We talk to each other over the phone and by Whatsapp too. At this moment, we can’t do anything as an organization since most of us ex-Muslims are in the closet, and we strictly follow the guidelines set by the government.

How do you think we should face this emergency as humanists? Which humanist principles should we value most right now?

As humanists, we need to take all our decisions based on scientific evidence and rely only on authentic news and information sources. We should not panic and we should not let others panic either. It is important to follow the instructions and guidelines set by the health authorities. People should be encouraged to rely on scientific and medical solutions rather than following irrational beliefs.

Right now, equality, rationality, secularism and freedom of expression are the most valuable humanist principles and values.

How can the international community support your efforts?

Everyone should share accurate knowledge and awareness about the situation. We also wish to support those who are in need of medical and financial difficulties, and so should everybody.

And what is your message to the global humanist community?

Support and help the ones most in need, within your capacity, as there are a lot of people who have fallen into various types of difficulties and troubles. We should use the opportunity to promote humanist values and we should enable people to make them able to think rationally.

This is an opportunity to make people realize that all humans are equal and we should support each other as humans. Everyone should believe in humanist values rather than discriminate against others based on beliefs, class, gender, caste, nationality, etc.

Thanks, Rishvin! And please stay safe!

Thank you, Giovanni, stay safe you too!

If you represent a Member or Associate of Humanists International and you want to participate in the #GlobalHumanismNow series, please contact us at [email protected]

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