06/19/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Buddhist festival of Poson Poya for peace and “non violence”

by Melani Manel Perera
The country’s religious minorities hope that as an invitation to national harmony the Buddhist feast day can be an occasion for dialogue and mutual understanding among different ethnic groups and religions. A Catholic priest reiterates the desire “to live like a big family.”
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, Wednesday 18 June, Sri Lankan Buddhists celebrated the festival of Poson Poya, which this year was dedicated to peace and national harmony. The slogan hailing “non-violence” was welcomed favourably by the faithful of other religions who hope that it might “lead the minds of our people to end violence in the country.”

The solemnity of Poson Poya is closely linked to Sinhalese culture and traditions. It dates back to the time when Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka, around 236 BC, with Prince Mahinda, son of King Asoka, and a group of missionaries came to the island to spread the word of the Buddha.

Celebrations are held in the Mihintale sacred area before government officials.

The theme for this year’s celebrations took on a particular meaning since it was an invitation to “non violence”, something which is supported by the country’s religious minorities.

“We really appreciate this year’s theme for Poson. By introducing this theme we see that they have started to think in terms of the Lord Buddha's true teachings, which urge us to understand one another and invite us to universal brotherhood” said Fr M. Sathivel, an Anglican priest. “If the country’s leaders and its people understand this necessity it will be possible to live in peace and harmony among the various ethnic groups and religions,” he told AsiaNews.

The Catholic community reasserted this notion, stressing the need to promote “non violence.”

“We are against the brutality and savagery that comes war in some areas,” Fr Nandana Saparamadu told AsiaNews. “It is impossible to solve conflicts and differences with the use of force,” added the priest from the Colombo diocese.

The clergyman said he hoped that the festival would be a harbinger of good tidings so that controversies could be solved through negotiations that focus on the “common good so that Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslims can be united like a big family.”

In wishing Buddhist a “happy Poson festival” and “peace for all,” religious minorities want to underscore the fact that it is a “shared goal that the celebration become a good opportunity to bring back harmony among the various religions and ethnic groups, badly affected by recent conflicts which have caused bloodshed in the country.”

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