November 2023

Respecting Diversity to Build a Pluralistic Society

In South Asian culture, cultural identity has the power to unite or divide people. In Sri Lanka, mutual understanding of other people’s culture, religion and language are key for peace building.

NPC’s Plural Action for Conflict Transformation (PACT) team organized a visit for students from Ensalwatte Sinhala Vidyalaya to Ensalwatte Tamil Vidyalam in the Matara District so that both communities could understand each other’s cultural aspects.

The Sinhala students learnt about Hinduism while attending the nawarathri festival. They are Buddhists and only speak Sinhala while the Tamil students do not speak Sinhala. Yet language was no barrier to communication.

While not being able to communicate verbally, using body language and making gestures the students shared thoughts and experiences in their unique way. The Tamil children taught the Sinhala children how to make pongal for the pooja and create a kolam in front of the hall. “We haven’t had an opportunity to engage and communicate with Tamil people before. They are very kind,” said a child from the Sinhala school.

The event showed that respecting diversity of ethnicity, religion and culture helps to build a pluralistic society. Relationships between children of different ethnicities, religions and languages represent the key to building reconciliation and a sustainable peace.