SRI LANKA - peace must start with religious reconciliation

About 250 people from every ethnic, gender, age, social and religious background attended a conference on 'Religious reconciliation for peace'. Two civil society groups stress that harmonious coexistence among all communities is needed to overcome the ravages of civil war.

"To build up true peace in the country, there should be strong reconciliation among major religions, and religious leaders have a big role to play," said representatives of the Women's Action for Social Justice (WASJ) and the People's Health Movement (PHM).


The two organisations sponsored a conference on 'Religious reconciliation for Peace' that was held last Thursday at the Nagarodaya Centre in Borella, in suburban Colombo.

The event brought together some 250 people from different ethnic (Sinhala and Tamil), religious, gender, age, and social backgrounds.


"In the current climate, minorities feel excluded from socio-political decisions and this has worsened the conditions of women, who are half of the population," WASJ president Padma Pushpakanthi told AsiaNews.


According to the two groups, this is a problem, especially since Sri Lanka has just come out of nearly 30 years of civil war and does not seems to have found a way to renew with true peace and harmony in society.


For PHM president Sirimal Peiris and Padma Pushpakanthi, all religious leaders have an important and essential role to play, namely "Create understanding and awareness in the population about social justice so as to achieve peaceful coexistence once and for all."


This takes on an even greater importance in light of tensions that have surfaced in the past 18 months between some radical Sinhala Buddhist groups and minority Christians and Muslims.


In view of this, Ven Pallekande Ratanasaara Thero, a Buddhist monk present at the meeting, reminded everyone that the "Buddha respected other religions," that "He knew them and sometimes prayed with their words. For this reason, we Buddhists must not underestimate the teachings of other religions nor their followers."