04/30/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims come together to stop religious intolerance

by Melani Manel Perera
Thousands of young people stage a peaceful demonstration to show their desire to rid the country of ethnic and religious hatred. Recent acts of violence and persecution by Buddhist radical groups have raised concerns among the population.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - In a spontaneous and peaceful manner, thousands of young Sri Lankan Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims poured into the streets of Colombo to protest against recent acts of violence and persecution perpetrated by radical Buddhist groups. Their aim is to stop ethnic-religious intolerance and emphasise the joy of diversity.

"We're still recovering from a long civil war," Marisa De Silva told AsiaNews. "Yet we see signs of hatred grow in our society," said the Catholic woman and one of the organisers of the event.

"As the youth of this country," she explained, "we feel that it is our responsibility to help build a Sri Lanka free from hatred. This is our first step, but we have a long road ahead of us. "

Ven Baddegama Samitha, a Buddhist monk, was among the participants. He said he was "very happy about initiatives by our new generations to eradicate racism in the country. They have my blessings."

In recent months, groups like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the Sinhala Ravaya (Sinhala Echo) have targeted the Muslim and Christian communities.

The two extremist movements have set for themselves the mission of protecting the Buddhist community, most notably its language, Sinhala, and religion.

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