Recent religious violent extremism in the country arose as a result of mistrust among different ethnoreligious groups. The lack of mechanisms to identify and address conflict stressors that can lead to violence is a long standing issue. Civil society groups and community leaders have a greater responsibility to dispel mistrust and misconceptions and to rebuild relations among religious groups.
NPC board members met officials of the Jaffna University to speed up the implementation of the advanced certificate course, sustainable peace through pluralism and inclusive service delivery, funded by Freedom House.
A residential workshop on pluralism and inclusion was held for 54 senior officials of the NGO Secretariat and the NGO Coordinators in 25 District Secretariats, attended by the Director General of the NGO Secretariat Sanjeewa Wimalagunarathna and other senior officials, NGO coordinators and micro finance officials under NPC’s Plural Action for Conflict Transformation (PACT) project.
Participants in two second language courses in the Gampaha and Trincomalee Districts under NPC’s project Language to Reconcile conducted by the National Institute of Language Education Training (NILET) were awarded their certificates. Each of the courses comprised 90 hours of class sessions.
The certificate awarding ceremony for 43 participants who completed a Sinhala language course was held in Batticaloa under NPC’s Language to Reconciliation project funded by the Canadian government through the National Languages Equality Advancement Project (NLEAP). Ninety hour second language courses have been held in the Batticaloa, Gampaha and Trincomalee districts.
Two residential workshops on pluralism and inclusion were held in Kandy and Galle for senior officials of the Kegalle and Galle District Secretariats and the Divisional Secretaries under NPC’s project Plural Action for Conflict Transformation (PACT). The Kegalle and Galle District Secretaries, Additional District Secretaries, Assistant District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries, Director of Planning, Director of Development and the Chief Accountant participated in the workshops. There were 75 participants at each workshop, which were organised by the Kegalle and Galle District Inter Religious Committees and NGO coordinators of the districts.
Religious conflicts in Sri Lanka have seen a steady increase with extremist parties spreading misconceptions to create divisions among communities to gain political advantages. Community leaders, religious leaders and state officials have a greater responsibility in mitigating existing conflict stressors to strengthen unity in their areas. In sustaining religious freedom within the framework of pluralism and the rule of law, it is necessary to empower these community leaders to carry out citizen driven initiatives. Carrying out need assessments for Local Inter Religious Committees (LIRCs) was a crucial effort that was taken by NPC’s Action for Religious Coexistence (ARC) team to identify the needs of areas subjected to recent religious conflicts.
NPC signed an agreement with the Sabaragamuwa University to establish an advanced certificate course on sustainable peace through inclusive services delivery. An agreement with the Eastern University has already been signed for the course under the Freedom House project on pluralism and inclusive service delivery.
Since the end of the civil war, hate narratives and extremist ideologies spread by nationalistic groups and politicians have gradually changed the mindset of citizens to suspect other ethno religious groups. Trust among communities had been lost and furthered eroded by the Easter Sunday attacks, undermining religious coexistence. The tendency of youth to accept hate narratives has grown in recent years as a result of social media.
NPC’s Action for Religious Coexistence (ARC) project conducted 17 activities reaching 569 youth wing members and 123 Local Inter Religious Committee (LIRC) members in 11 locations. These activities, which include capacitation and engagement interventions, were successful in terms of participation and impact. The feedback received from participants proves that ARC managed to ensure the quality of activities encouraging them to take the initiative to strengthen rule of law in the country.