The National Peace Council (NPC)

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NPC Promotes Ethnic Coexistence Through Religion

Under Phase Two of its Reconciling Inter Religious and Inter Ethnic Differences (RIID) project, NPC held a National Inter Religious Symposium on November 5 at the Sri Lanka Foundation.

About 150 religious leaders, civil society leaders and NPC partners attended the Symposium. Members of the nine District Inter Religious Committees (DIRC) set up under the project shared stories of successfully averting conflicts arising from ethnic and religious tension.

Phase Two of the RIID project, funded by USAID/SPICE, revitalised a group of existing DIRCs through capacity building and networking at the district and national level. Of the nine DIRCs in the project, Jaffna, Mannar, Puttalam, Galle, Matara, Batticaloa and Ampara were already established by NPC while Kandy and Nuwara Eliya were newly created to address a rising number of incidents of inter religious and inter ethnic tension in the country and to build on the lessons learnt from the existing DIRCs.

Chief Guest Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told the participants that the government was committed to bridging gap between southern and northern parts of the country so that all citizens could live in harmony with national pride.

He said misunderstanding and mistrust between different ethnic and religious communities prevented reconciliation and unity. Everyone should be treated alike whatever their religion and ethnicity, he said.

“The rule of law will be implemented, people will live in dignity and the divided country will be reunited,” Mr. Jayasuriya said.

NPC Executive Director Jehan Perera said the grass root level success of bringing communities together at the district level should be taken to the national level.

“The new government has promised an international committee for truth searching, justice, giving compensation and seeing that the past is not repeated. We can link our DIRC work to the compassionate council proposed by the government,” he pointed out.

Acting Deputy Director of USAID Reed Aeschliman said that events such as the symposium enhanced dialogue to promote coexistence among ethnic groups. Religious and ethnic extremism was detrimental to the country finding lasting peace and healing wounds, he pointed out.

“We believe NPC is helping to establish a mechanism to strengthen reconciliation and lasting peace at the district, provincial and national levels. NPC is a leading peace building organisation that has successfully promoted reconciliation and coexistence,” Mr. Aeschliman said.

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