02/07/2022, 14.08
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Religious leaders get together in Negombo at church hit by Easter Sunday attack

by Melani Manel Perera

About 120 Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders gather in Negombo, one of the cities hit during the 2019 Easter Sunday attack to show “our unity to society”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims came together in Negombo to walk for peace.

About 120 religious leaders from different parts of the country took part in an inter-religious meeting held between 18 and 20 January under the auspices of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka together with the Negombo Regional Inter-Religious Committee.

The highlight of the gathering was the visit to the St Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, one of the places of worship hit in the Sunday Easter 2019 attacks.

“For three days, participants were able to exchange views on the interreligious programme in their areas, sharing experiences and new challenges,” said M U M Uvise, one of the leaders of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka (NPC), speaking to AsiaNews.

This event “is the result of many years of efforts by the National Peace Council to promote understanding and friendship,” said Venerable Rathmalkatiye Siridhamma Thero, of Ganegoda Purana Rajamaha Viharaya in Matara.

“There is a great bond of friendship, understanding, and trust between Muslim clergy, Hindu Kurukkal, Christian clergy, and Buddhist monks associated with the National Peace Council,” he explained.

“Now is the time to bring this spirit to ordinary people as well,” he added.” Everyone wants to live in brotherhood in a context where others are free to practise their religion.”

“I and our kurukkal are engaged in several activities to promote religious coexistence,” said Mahendran Chandrawadini, a Tamil Hindu from the Batticaloa inter-faith committee.

Speaking to AsiaNews, she added: “It was a great privilege to visit St Sebastian Church of Katuwapitiya where the Easter Sunday (tragedy) happened in 2019. It is very painful to see the places where bombs exploded. I wish the deceased rest in peace and give strength to their families.”

“A lot of people come and take pictures,” said Fr Ciswan Croos, the vicar of the Catholic community in Negombo. Such interfaith gatherings are welcomed with joy, he added. In fact, “We are told that they would like to see this spirit everywhere in the country.”

“There are a few extremists in every religion, but the majority want peace and coexistence,” Fr Croos explained. Thus, “As religious leaders we have a great challenge and responsibility.”

For Imam Maulovi Salmaan, a member of the Negombo interreligious team, “We should show our unity to society. We really appreciate the great effort by Card (Malcolm) Ranjith to maintain peace between Christians and Muslims even after the 2019 Easter Sunday (attacks).”

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