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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2584

Sri Lankans are for Pluralism: President Chandrika Kumaratunga leads a programme for Ethnic and Religious Harmony

Colombo, 30 April, (

The South Asia Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI), created and chaired by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, successfully completed a project on capacity building for Peaceful Co-existence through Ethnic and Religious Harmony, in the districts of Kalutara, Galle, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Puttalam. It included 27 workshops; most of them full day activities, conducted within a period of three months in the five districts. The project was funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The programme comprised of workshops for political leaders, political activists and the grassroots in the districts of Kalutara, Galle and Ratnapura. Political leaders including Members of Provincial Councils and former Members of Local Government bodies, as well as political activists, from different political parties, amongst whom there was a considerable number of women, attended the workshops.

The grassroots level workshops had the participation of religious leaders, community leaders, government representatives, the civil society, professionals and the private sector, among others.

The foremost objective of the programme was to create an environment conducive towards fostering religious harmony and initiating a dialogue among and within the different religious communities, leading to social cohesion and peaceful co-existence in the multi-religious and multi-ethnic society in Sri Lanka.

SAPRI’s programme was well received in all districts and numerous views were articulated by participants to further enhance the activities. Foremost of these was the need to encourage dialogue among religious leaders, commence similar programmes within schools, create opportunity for regular interaction between persons from different areas in the country, for example between Jaffna and Galle, through visits.

In addition to the political and grassroots activities another parallel programme was carried out with the participation of the Buddhist Clergy in the districts of Galle, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Puttalam under the theme “Contemporary challenges faced by the clergy and measures to overcome them”.

The pressures to maintain the cultural heritage and traditions were among the prominent challenges faced by the Buddhist Clergy while the Bhikkus themselves expressed the need for the present day Buddhist Monks to widen their language ability by learning English and acquiring computer skills, to interact well with the changing society and world. The advantages of facilitating programs to introduce other main religions to the Bhikkus were also discussed at the workshops.

The highlights of the workshops were visits to a Temple, Hindu Kovil, Mosque and a Church by the participants who belonged to all four religions and planting a’ tree for unity’. It was a novel experience for the participants to visit places of worship of a religion other than their own while the planting of a ‘tree for unity’ reflected harmony among the different religious communities in the workshop areas, as well as the importance of environmental protection.

The project concluded with platforms being created, roadmaps outlined and coordinating committees appointed for each district to carry the programme forward.

SAPRI is a regional organization, whose foremost priority is to facilitate the evolving of inclusive societies in the region. The institute embarked on the project to foster peaceful coexistence through building ethnic and religious harmony, due to the incidents of religious disturbances in the recent past, causing a threat to, the peaceful co-existence in the country; economic progress; social cohesion and political stability.

- Asian Tribune –

Tree planting ceremony in Embilipitiya 27.02.2016
 Field visit to places of worship -  Akmeemana  20.02.2-16
  Bhikkus in discussion – Puttlam District 13.03.2016
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