Peace and Harmony
1) DIALOGUE FOR INTER-RACIAL, INTER- RELIGIOUS HARMONY
IMADR AC in collaboration with other civil society partners carried out activities to promote community level dialogues and interaction with religious leaders, religious associations and similar forum. Further attempts were made to identify and interact with professionals and civil society activists who have been engaging in inter-religious programmes. The purpose of this activity was to increase dialogue and interaction at the grass-roots level among all three communities. The regions were identified accordingly where the population consisted of all three communities as well as areas identified as trouble-spots. Activities were conducted in collaboration with networking partners in several districts. So far over 60 dialogues were held between dominant and minority religious groups (including youth and adults) in 16 districts namely, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Gampaha, Colombo, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, and Mullaitivu districts.
2) CELEBRATING DIVERSITY
The following are some of the main events conducted at community/ district level.
- Children drawing competition in Trincomalee. 15 children participated
- Youth Cricket Tournament in Trincomalee. 54 youth cricketers and 400 villagers participated.
- Arms giving programme in Trincomalee where 51 female from 3 ethnic groups participated
- Arms giving programme in Gampaha. 58 female from 3 ethnic groups participated.
- A drama programme was held in Kurunegala under the theme of “Peace and Reconciliation”. 48 female: 26 Sinhalese, 12 Muslims, and 06 Tamils participated. These women staged 3 dramas under the theme of peace and reconciliation. Each drama focused on a specific and practical issue that prevail in Kurunegala district. Through each drama, they gave a message to the audience as how they should resolve issues related to inter-ethnic and religious nature in non-violent ways.
- Poson Poya Day programmes in Negombo/ Gampaha, an inter-religious arm giving programme (Dansela) was conducted, based on action plans of respective CDFs. The CDF of Gampaha is multi religious in nature and they uniting to organize community events of religious importance is appreciated and supported by the CRDSL.
- An inter religious and inter cultural festival was held in Hambantota. The chief guests were leading Buddhist, catholic, Islam, and Hindu religious leaders in the district. A drama troupe was also held. The participants appreciated the event as they could experience the importance of inter religious co-existence through culture and arts expressions.
- A Sarawathi Pooja (a Tamil cultural event) was organized in Gampaha to invoke blessings of goddess “Saraswathi”. This event was conducted not purely as a religious event, but as an inter-religious event, as Buddhist and catholic religious leaders also participated in addition to Hindu priests. The participants were also educated on the cultural value behind the Saraswathi Pooja event.
- Awareness about Islam among the Sinhalese in Deniyaya/ Matara is very low. Thus an event at Deniyaya in which basics of Islam religion were shared with Sinhalese, and a Mawlavi (Islam Priest) from an Islamic teaching institute conducted the event. Basic principles of Islam, its holy book, its evaluation in Sri Lanka, and some of the current stereotypes of Islam in Sri Lanka and worldwide were discussed. A Buddhist monk also participated in the learning sessions.
- A group of 25 individuals gathered in Hambantota to learn about Catholicism/ Christianity. The participants were Buddhists Islamic, and Hindus. The parish priest of Tangalle Church (Fr Viraj Thiserra) conducted the programme titled “The Cores of Catholicism”. The participants could improve their knowledge on basics/ core principles of Catholicism/ Christianity, its evolution in Sri Lanka, and some of the criticisms it gets in the contemporary world.
- In 2015 a convergence was held in Kandy representing all communities to mark the initiation of our Campaign Centre calling for religious harmony. As the annual highlight a national unity assembly was organized in Kandy on 29th December 2015. This occasion was graced by around 600 citizens and inter religious leaders. The guest of honor was the Assistant Indian High Commissioner, Mrs Radha Venkataraman. In addition to the Mrs Venkataraman, Mr Lal Wijenayake, the Chairman of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms, and several other political and religious leaders graced the event. Addressing the occasion, Mrs Venkataraman stressed the importance of Ahimsa (non-violence) as practiced by Mahatma Gandi of India. There were number of cultural items that depicted the importance of religious tolerance in Sri Lanka performed by children from arts schools in Kandy. Also there was an event presented by a group of differently abled children.
- With the Easter Sunday attack which took place on 21 April in a few leading hotels and catholic Churches, fear, suspicion and intolerance among communities were developed which results in ethnic and religious violence. Thus being proactive to prevent this escalation a programme was organized in Anuradhapura St Joseph’s Church with religious leaders and civil society activist on 23 April 2019.
3) DEVELOPING A PUPPET SHOW
With a team of youth from various districts the script of a puppet show was developed and puppets made. The theme is `We are all Friends’. Puppet shows were held with the support of our partners in several Provinces identified as war affected areas. The programme committee identified regions where ethnic and religious tensions prevailed including conflicts of socio-economic nature –land ownership. At each of these performances around 100 people join.
4) “SADU JANA RAWAYA” (THE VOICE OF GOODNESS) MUSICAL PERFORMANCE
`SaduJanaravaya’ is a one person musical performance developed in late 80’s as part of a cultural activity linked to mass education on human rights issues experienced in Sri Lanka. Initiated linked to the campaign against disappearances in 1980s the performance transformed into a `Peace Concert-Musical’ over the last decades. During district seminars and community level discussions the cultural activities with songs were held. The Sadhu Janaravaya was held mostly hosted by communities during district and provincial leave demonstrations, campaigns and during seminars.
5) REVIEW EDUCATIONAL CURRICULUMS ON RELIGION.
Research on religious education has been completed and a monograph has been produced. This document assisted us further facilitate discussions among teachers and young people involved in religious education activities in Churches, Temples, Madrasas and Hindhu Kovils. The study is now printed in Sinhala and Tamil and few copies have been made in English.
6) CARTOON BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
The art competition was on the theme of importance of reconciliation which was conducted in Trincomalee in 2015/2016. The winners (7 children) participated in a one day training programme on advance drawing/ painting and their drawings were used during an art exhibition in Kandy for World’s Children day in October 2016. The drawings of this competition was used to develop the cartoon book in 2017 which is now produced in Sinhala and Tamil.
7) PRODUCTION OF A CHILDREN’S CALENDAR
IMADR-AC in partnership with the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation on their invitation participated in supporting the activities of the Children’s Club in a reconciliation campaign. A calendar was published for 2018, which was supported under visibility action.
The Asia Committee was formed to strengthen networking in South Asia and promote core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and promote compliance.