05/04/2011, 00.00
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About 2,000 people come together on Buddhist New Year for ethnic and religious harmony

by Melani Manel Perera
Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus take part in Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. The daylong festivities show that “it is possible to build a multiethnic and non-violent nation without war,” an Anglican bishop says.

Ambepussa (AsiaNews) – “If Church and Temple join hands, it will be easier to build ethnic and religious harmony in the country. This event is the proof of that,” said Mgr Shanta Francis, the Anglican bishop of Kurunegala as he spoke about Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations in Mangedara, a village in Sabaragamuwa Province. The festivities were organised last Saturday by the Purana Viharaya Buddhist Temple (Ambepussa district, diocese of Ratnapura) to promote ethnic and religious harmony.

More than 2,000 people took part in the celebrations, including Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, from Colombo, Moratuwa, Gampaha, Kurunegala, Ambepussa, Thulhiriya and Mangedara. Children and adults of every age and religion played in games and races.

The Temple – Church, Sinhala and Tamil New Year” was the theme of the event. Organised by the Inter-Religious Alliance for National Unity (IRANU), the Children Foundation for National and Religious Unity and the Purana Viharaya Buddhist Temple, the goal of the meeting was the promotion of unity and peace.

For Mallika Fonseka, a Christian woman who attended the celebration, it was a “special” day because it gave children and young people a good example. “Today, the most essential need is to strengthen unity among nations and religions”.

“We should not wait for the calendar to organise events like this, but should meet year long to promote unity and peace and strengthen unity among people,” said the Venerable Valivita Janananda Thero, head of the temple. “For us, it I s a day of joy because all the cultures were able to hold hands.”

Sri Lanka should be a multiethnic and multi-religious society that leads people with respect towards building a society without conflict or violence, Bishop Francis said.

Seyed Hassan Moulana, a Muslim community leader, agrees. “We should protect peace and develop harmony so that we can live as one nation,” he said.

The village of Mangedera is home to 354 Buddhist families, who grow rice and vegetable, and about 100 Tamil families who earn their living in a nearby rubber plantation.

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