Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders with Buddhists this Vesak
by Melani Manel Perera
Sri Lanka is a "pluralistic society as it combines ethnic groups, religions and cultures," says Fr Hettiarachchi from the Inter Religious Alliance for National Unity. For this reason the faithful of all religions should celebrate the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s enlightenment.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Christians, Muslims and Hindus in Sri Lanka must "join hands" with their Buddhist brothers and celebrate together this "Vesak" the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s enlightenment, said religious leaders from the Inter Religious Alliance for National Unity (Iranu) in a press conference last May 3, hosted by the Government Department of Information. This year's Vesak falls on 17 and 18 May next.

"Sri Lanka is a pluralistic society, where live, ethnicities, religions and cultures. So all the faithful of other religions should participate in the celebration of Vesak, an event of great joy for our Buddhist brothers, "said rev. Sarath Hettiarachchi, methodist priest and co-chairman of 'Iranu.

Seyed Hassan, the Islamic Maulavi community and second co-chairman of Iranu, stressed that "as a single nation, we have a responsibility to give support and encourage the success of these Buddhist celebrations."

On the occasion of Vesak, the government will open the first Buddhist museum in the world, Kandy (Central Province), on 20 May. The museum is located in Sri Dalada Maligawa, the temple of the "relic of the tooth" one of the holiest places for the Buddhist community of Sri Lanka and around the world, declared World Heritage site since 1988. It preserves a canine of the Buddha.

The issue of ethnic and religious harmony is felt in the country, looking for redemption after thirty years of ethnic conflict which ended in 2009. Recently, the Inter Religious Alliance for National Unity has organized various events (see, " About 2,000 people come together on Buddhist New Year for ethnic and religious harmony ", " Christians, Buddhists and Hindus: protect peace, in memory of Muhammed ") to try to encourage integration.