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Thursday, 09 January 2020 06:59

Learning and Sharing to Foster Inter Faith Engagement

A three day experience sharing visit was organized by NPC’s Collective Engagement for Religious Freedom (CERF) project for 120 members of the Akurana, Negombo and Vavuniya Local Inter Religious Committees (LIRCs) in Vavuniya with the support of the Social Development Services Foundation (SDSF), Sarvodaya and the Rural Development Foundation.

The visit was an opportunity to witness, learn and share experiences in formulating and implementing committee activities and public interventions as well as being a platform to promote pluralism, which is a core objective of the project, through inter faith engagement and interaction.

The first inter faith sharing activity was organized at the Anuradhapura Grand Mosque where participants from all faiths were able to witness the Friday Jumma prayers and engage in a discussion facilitated by the Mosque Trustee Committee on the importance of coexistence in creating an unified country.

The discussion opened the opportunity for participants of other faiths to express their thoughts on the value of unity. Several participants emphasised the importance of creating a national identity so members of all faiths could unite and move towards a peaceful society.

At the next session, Vavuniya District Secretary Mr. I. M. Haniffa praised the activities of the LIRC, saying that it fostered coexistence among communities and had successfully identified community level conflicts, thus preventing them from occurring even while other parts of the country were in turmoil.

NPC Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera emphasised the importance of valuing and embracing diversity. “Although we belong to different faiths and ethnicities and have different political ideologies, we come together as one when it is needed. Our strengths lie in our diversity. We must use our differences to our advantage,” he said.

The three committees then made presentations on the activities they had conducted so far, highlighting their community engagement interventions. They learnt from each other about how to effectively engage with communities according to their specific needs and shared their thoughts on the successes and areas to be improved.

Later the participants visited Thalikkulama village to see the multi religious Sunday school that was built by Vavuniya LIRC as a solution for the limited interaction and understanding among religious communities of the village. The visitors gifted stationary items, school bags and books to underprivileged children in the village.

On the third day participants were taken to the Vanni Rehabilitation Organization (VAROD). Several people who had been disabled during the war shared their experiences with the committee members.

Committee members were able to witness first hand the suffering caused by war as well as the role of religious leaders in healing and bringing communities together.

“We always emphasise it is just only a few people engage in extremism while the majority are moderate. We should educate others on the value of diversity and coexistence whenever possible,” said a Community Policing Inspector from Vavuniya.

“There was a bit of distance between Muslims and other religious communities in Negombo. So the religious leaders got together and arranged common initiatives such as visits to religious places. Come and visit us so we will able to broaden our understanding of each other,” said a Moulavi from Negombo.