08/03/2017, 14.51
SRI LANKA
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Colombo Caritas promotes interfaith coexistence

by Melani Manel Perera

"We must overcome violence," said the Venerable Yatawatte Ganarama Thero. "We bless and appreciate the action taken by the Catholic Church to promote interfaith coexistence,” said Muslim representative Abdhul Rahuman. "The challenge for us today is to build a peaceful country," said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Seth Sarana-Caritas Colombo.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Seth Sarana, the Caritas of the Colombo Archdiocese, promotes coexistence in Sri Lanka as a multinational and multireligious country.

Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Catholic clergy met at the Buddhist temple of Angurukaramulla in Negombo on 29 July where they collected signatures from supporters of interfaith coexistence with different backgrounds.

Setting off from the temple, the group walked around the city for about 10 km, visiting several places belonging to various religious groups, always asking people to sign their appeal for coexistence.

This comes at a time when the country is still emerging from almost thirty years of civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese, often presented as a war between Hindus and Buddhists. Still today, tensions remain between Buddhist, Christian and Muslim groups.

"We must overcome violence in different parts of Sri Lanka done in the name of religion and ethnicity,” said the Venerable Yatawatte Ganarama Thero, current head of Bodirajarama Maha Viharaya, in Negombo. “We must prove that we can live as one family in our multiethnic and multireligious country.”

"In the past, we have shown that we can live together, but harmony has been completely destroyed by several episodes of violence,” said Muslim representative Abdhul Rahuman, who spoke to AsiaNews at the Periyammula Maha Palliya Mosque.

“Still, we shall once again achieve unity between us and this will teach people to think and accept all religions and ethnic groups as they are. We bless and appreciate the action taken by the Catholic Church to promote interfaith coexistence."

Since 2015, Colombo Caritas has sponsored five inter-faith forums with the participation of various religious leaders. This has entailed the organisation of various activities designed to promote interfaith harmony in the community and support for peace and reconciliation.

Initiatives have been held in Negombo, in the Thillanduwa, Bolawalana, Periyammulla, Dalupotha and Kandasurindugama areas, representing the various ethnic groups and faiths.

Indika Lakmali, who took part in the caravan, is a Catholic member of the Bolawalana forum. "At present, there is no real unity between the major religions of our country,” he told AsiaNews. “But we can show society that we have to live together and teach our children to respect all religions and be friends with everyone."

Buddhist Priyanka Fernando, president of the Bolawalana forum, told AsiaNews that people need to live "as brothers and sisters with everyone." For this reason, the forum calls on people to share food at events such as Christmas for Catholics, or New Year's Eve for Buddhists. "This helps us boost ties between us," she explained.

"Although the event ended with fewer participants than in previous editions, our message that ethnic and interreligious coexistence at this time is the most important issue Important in our country went out despite the poor media coverage,” said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Seth Sarana-Caritas Colombo. "The challenge for us today is to build a peaceful country,” he added.

According to Ashan Wickremasinghe, Seth Sarana-Caritas Colombo financial manager, in order to build unity among religions and ethnic groups, the interfaith forum must be able to undertake various initiatives, "such as joint celebration of major religious festivals, shared language courses, children art exhibits and writing competitions, promoting respect for human dignity in collaboration with government officials."

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