|Fr. Paul Fernando|
“Each and every religion in this world must be empowered with the original and pure doctrine that their founders had preached”
I think the title really spells out the journey which Bro. Charles as he is called now or for that matter Daham Pahana traveled along the years. In my first years as a priest in Ratnapura I knew Charles an Altar server with an angelic face. After very many years I met him again as a young man with an ardent passion for spreading the word of God through preaching sessions interspersed with songs and hymns which he would sing. By then I had heard of Charles as a type of an apostle who would go from house to house in a bicycle preaching and singing to groups of people.
I was searching for a new way to enliven my lethargic parish community when he was directed to me as man capable of doing that. The effect he created in my community was electric. The response the people gave to his brand of preaching made me see the thirst in the people to experience God as well as the charisma that God has endowed him. Mrs. Marita Gunetileke, the parish organist and a singer, did her bit to make the sessions lively. I recognized that, this actually was the dream that I had all along my years as a priest.
Charles and I shared our dreams and found that we have had the same vision. As the session progressed we both felt a sense of urgency to spread the Love of God into every nick and corner in the country. We shared ideas of even using popular artists to sing and thought that would attract more people. While opportunities opened for us to realize our goals through the invitations extended by many other priests in various parts of the country, some catholic professional artists also began to give their talents to the campaign. Rookantha Goonatileke and Chandralekha Perera, two most popular singers of Sri Lanka at that time joined to give their abilities to the cause. Rookantha even offered to train the enthusiastic youths who had gathered to make their contribution by playing and singing.
It was only lately that we found that the singers and the players were non essentials in the apostolate. However their contribution to enhance the message remains uncontested. God would touch the preacher in unexpected ways to create a situation where the power of His word would stand out even if nothing of those tools were present. At that time Dicky Thomas, father of Charles too was already involved as a lay preacher in the diocese. Slowly God started giving us opportunities to re-awaken the love of God in the hearts of people in various places. Musicians joined in. It was late Mr.Stanely peiris who led the way to do the “way prasansa” in an extravagant way. Extravagant? Yes, but the message demanded that such a platform is necessary befitting the grandeur of God, the origin of all our activities. More and more people started coming to hear Charles’ preaching and singing.
Slowly our own compositions of hymns emerged from the experiences we underwent during the years. Lesley, a very talented musician, who incidentally is the brother of Bro. Charles, brought in a group of musicians who would help in assisting the sessions. My songs too blossomed gaining new meaning which I had not been foreseeing. I felt that as if God in His own way had made me write them just for this journey. Lesley, I knew detested anything religious. But slowly he volunteered even to compose some touching melodies to the lyrics of Bro. Charles and there are some deep lyrics that from his pen. We always vowed to maintain a standard of hymns with quality recordings and better background music believing that containers of such a great message, God’s message, should only be in vessels that fit its value.
By this time our programme had gained a name. “We Prasansa” or let God be praised. Well wishers responded by donating good sound equipments. God always kept us in check, but who appreciate the just giving enough to continue depending on Him. We do appreciate that. We never had much but we had enough for the day. The demand for the services grew and name Daham pahana was given to our campaign to enkindle love in the hearts and minds of the faithful as well as in the non Christians. By now we have many Buddhist monks who appreciate the message and even give us opportunities to address their own people. The universalism of the theme has brought us across the paths of diverse faiths, social classes, talents and temperaments. For the message to take root we have found that each and every religion in this world must be empowered with the original and pure doctrine that their founders had preached.
There were many requests from people to create a special place for them to rest, away from the quagmire that the presently live. During our travels round the country God presented a beautiful place for us, to build a place just like that. A Garden of Eden it would be. Anyone visiting Shanthi Uyana, the garden of peace, would see that He had reserved this place just for you and me to experience the warmth of His loving embrace. No photograph would reveal the fullness of His love; you have to go and visit to see the truth of my words.
We have been now invited by circumstances beyond our wishes, probably because that’s what He wants, into the international arena. Men and women who had experience the fire of the Lord in our services, strive to guard and keep it alive. It is they who want to share the spirit with others in the countries they live and work in. On their invitations we have embarked on mission to various countries. Though there are enthusiastic groups of people who liaise with us we do not make any effort to form communities who swear their allegiance to us. Our aim is always to enkindle and fire up people to live a life closer to the source and origin of love. We have vowed not to form competitive organizations. The church and the world had enough of those and those invariably bring in strife and blood baths.
In this world people come with an inborn desire to love and to be loved. That is the seed of divinity in every one of us. Daham Pahana promotes and wishes to bring it out into action in communities. Our mission is to spread and enkindle the Love of God and man in every human being. We praise and worship him in songs while enlightening the hearts of people towards the love that is embedded in their hearts by God. Christ makes the word alive and the Holy Spirit directs us.