A project towards enhancing the Freedom of Religion and Belief in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a millennial history of people belonging to the four major religions, as well as to different ethnic groups living in harmony with each other within a structured feudal society. However, over the years, the centuries-old harmonious socio-cultural fabric, has given way to negative social tensions that have emerged from the eruptions of periodic violence beginning with the youth uprisings of 1971 and 1988 in the South and the 3-decade long armed conflict between the State and a group of armed terrorists in the North and East, as well as numerous eruptions that have taken place since the end of the armed conflict in 2009. All these conflicts are based on hard-core nationalistic and religious ideologies.
The multiple outbursts of violent attacks against different communities have had an extremely negative impact on the peaceful co-existence of citizens in our multi-cultural and, plural society while drastically affecting the economic development process in the country.
In the present situation in Sri Lanka, perpetrators of communal violence are only a handful. On the other hand there appears to be a lack of information on the different communities, their religions, cultural practices, the issues they face, as well as their commitment to build a united Sri Lanka. The past practices undertaken by numerous civil society groups and religious leaders to promote mutual trust and build National Unity, could inspire potential participants in this proposed project.
The project will attempt to create understanding among clerics of each faith, of the importance of appreciating other religions and philosophies, thereafter building relationships among the clergy of the four faiths in Sri Lanka; develop leadership and communication skills of the clerical beneficiaries enabling (empowering) them to promote unity and appreciate diversity in the community, with focus on youth, both male and female; focus on dangers of hate speech, conflict and conflict transformation, the history of conflict and its negative impact on the social and economic progress in Sri Lanka and how to prevent hate speech on the media and within the community
The Target Groups will be,religious leaders, male and female clerics including young clerics of all religions and faiths; community leaders and community activists; professionals comprising members of the government and the civil society; academics; school teachers and Principals; women and youth, private sector members.Target Areas of the project are Galle, Gampaha and Kandy identified as “hot spots” for religious conflict.
The project action plan includes the conduct of, intra-faith and interfaith dialogues among the participants of each faith, including the clergy,and, community initiatives under the leadership of the clergy who will be empowered through intra-faith and interfaith dialogues.