In Colombo, a nativity play becomes a symbol of inter-ethnic and inter-faith unity
by Melani Manel Perera

The annual Christmas carols at Holy Family Convent (HFC) School highlight unity. The traditional nativity scene has been given further meaning by the addition of four characters representing Sri Lanka’s four main communities.

Colombo (Asia News) – Christmas carols are sung every year on the last day of class in all Sri Lankan schools. The Holy Family Convent (HFC) School in Colombo too holds its annual Christmas carol service before Christmas, but after school is closed.

This year, with an invitation open to all students, parents and alumni of the school, 200 students sang 12 carols in four languages: Sinhalese, English, Tamil as well as Latin.

HFC’s annual Christmas carols showed unity because “We live in a multiethnic society where different religions and ethnic groups live and share their lives” during what was “above all, an evening of praise for the Lord," school principal Sister Deepa Fernando told AsiaNews.

Four characters representing the country’s Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burger communities were added to the traditional nativity play, broadening its meaning.

"Our principal wanted me to think differently and meaningfully about the nativity play this year,” said dance teacher Deana Vilashini Hettiarchchi, who organised the performance. Sister Deepa “wanted to send a message to society to avoid the misunderstandings, suspicions and hatred that followed the Easter Sunday attacks.”

“We wanted to invite Christians and others to rethink and remove the distance between ethnic groups and welcome each other as sisters and brothers because Jesus was born for everyone, not just for Christians. It is about unity, not division.”

Speaking to, AsiaNews Sister Deepa noted that "We are in the Christmas season and Christmas carols are something very common in this period.”

More importantly, “We organise them to show unity in the birth of Jesus, because we live in a multiethnic society in which different religions and ethnic groups live together. We symbolise our unity in diversity, showing the richness of our nation.”

 “In our nativity [play], we can see the arrival of the three kings and four other people who visit our Lord wearing their traditional costumes. This shows Jesus incarnate among people, beyond cultural differences.”

A student who took part in the play bemoaned that “in our society the ethnic and religious harmony of the past no longer exist after the Easter Sunday attacks.”

In his homily, Father Quintus Perera OMI also focused on unity and sharing in a peaceful society.

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