12/20/2018, 16.35
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Christmas with ‘unseen children’ in Colombo (photos)

by Melani Manel Perera

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are behind the initiative, which involves some 70 kids of different religious background forced to leave school due to the poverty of their families.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The "unseen children" of the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) in Colombo celebrated Christmas with songs, gifts and "forbidden" dances last Friday (15 December) at the Mattakuliya office.

“Unseen children”, an initiative of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), seeks to protect the poorest children.

"Most of the children are Muslims and Hindus with a few Catholics,” said Fr Ashok Stephen, the CSR’s executive director, speaking to AsiaNews. “But they are all our children. we want them to be happy and we pass on them the values ​​of religion and unity among religions."

Fr Tissa Balasuriya established the centre in the 1970s to make society a "good place for all human beings".

The "Unseen Children" initiative is based in Mutwall district and welcomes children of all ages who wish to study but unfortunately had to drop out of school because of their families’ poverty.

It is open every afternoon from 2.30 to 5.30 pm (local time) and on Saturday mornings. Five qualified teachers follow the children, whilst Saturday mornings are dedicated to sport, information technology and music.

Some 72 local children take part in the project. Thanks to the careful support of the teachers, "the children have made a lot of progress,” the clergyman said. “It makes you proud to see a child that at the beginning had a score of 17 (at the exams) and now, with our help, gets 35."

All children, regardless of religion, participate in each other’s religious festivals. "During the Wesak Buddhist festival, children prepare the appropriate decorations for this celebration,” Fr Stephen explained. “The same goes for the Hindu festival of Diwali (festival of lights) and Islamic celebrations. This way we make them understand the true meaning of religion, which is to live together and love one another.”

For the celebration of Christ’s birth, the children decorated the hall, sang carols, staged plays and danced, things they would not normally do at home.

"We are happy because we have danced and our parents liked the show,” the kids said. “Then we received gifts." Christmas gifts included various items for the next school year.

"Christmas is the feast of a birth and this birth is joy and love,” Fr Stephen said. “We explained that this is the true meaning of Christmas. Then we asked the children to study and become good citizens of this country."

Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
Colombo, Natale con i
Colombo, Natale con i "bambini invisibili"
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