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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2526

Buddhist monks given training to ensure peaceful co-existence in Sri Lanka

By Munza Mushtaq – Reporting from Colombo for Asian Tribune

Colombo, 25 July, (Asiantribune.com): The United States is working to help build the capacity of monk dedicated to opening dialogs and finding non-violent solutions to the conflict. The Buddhist ethical principles of non-violence and peaceful co-existence can play a positive role in the formation of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and pluralistic Sri Lanka. The Buddhist clergy will have tremendous influence in educating and shaping the attitudes of Sri Lankans about peace and inter-ethnic relations.

As part of its peace-building program, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide technical assistance to create a language and information technology (IT) resource center to train 400 members of the Buddhist clergy in the English and Tamil languages, IT, and to introduce peace-building tools and techniques. The center will bring groups of Buddhist clergy together to provide them with the opportunity to communicate with diverse groups and actively participate in peace building efforts without language barriers.

"Lack of knowledge of Tamil by Sinhalese is a grave problem we face," said Ven. Dematewewa Nanbdasarathera, Chief Sanghaanayaka of the Rajarata chapter, Tripitakeavedi. "Since ancient times, Buddhist priests have counseled kings and rulers of Sri Lanka," said Ven. Dematewewa Nanbdasarathera. "In those days, monks had all the knowledge they needed. To keep pace with today's developing world, competence in languages and computers is necessary. The internet provides more information at the touch of a key than we could normally learn in years. We can relay this knowledge and the skills we acquire with thousands of others." Ven. Dematwewa Nandasarathera added that knowledge of English and Tamil is a critical aspect of the program. The language barrier, he said, tends to keep communities apart.

The Center for Peace-building and Reconciliation (CPBR), a partner of USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), consulted with local authorities and clergy to engage monks in the Anuradaupura District as natural peace brokers. The center is equipped with furniture, computers, and technical equipment. Its classrooms will host programs on IT and provide English and Tamil language training. In such a setting, the clergy can conduct forums and entertain new perspectives from within the community, while discussing local, national, and international issues related to the ethnic conflict – without the barriers of language. The center was opened at a ceremony in Anuradaupura on Thursday, with USAID Education Specialist Janet Orr as chief guest.

"By raising awareness in the clergy about issues related to the effects of war, and the benefits of peace, and exposing them to differing perspectives and examples from other countries, we hope the center will provide a springboard to strengthen their voice for non-violent solutions," said USAID Mission Director Dr. Carol Becker.

OTI funded 558 grants, for an estimated total of $17.4 million, to support efforts to end the long-standing conflict in Sri Lanka by collaborating with local groups to increase awareness and understanding of key transition issues; and to promote participation and collaboration among diverse groups to set and address priorities.

- Asian Tribune -

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