Wednesday, 06 September 2017 17:35

Intra Religious Tensions Defused in Batticaloa

Batticaloa District Inter Religious Committee (DIRC) worked with religious leaders and government officials to end a conflict over burial grounds in the Vaharai area. Pressure and advocacy of the members resulted in government land being allocated for a new graveyard for non Catholics.


The Catholic graveyard had been used by all Christians for many decades. However, when Catholics and Hindus converted to other denominations of Christianity, they were not allowed to be buried in the Catholic graveyard they had used previously. As a result bodies had to be carried more than 70 km away for burial.

Batticaloa DIRC was keen to find a resolution before it became a flash point for religious violence. A committee was appointed to meet the Vaharai District Secretary (DS), who agreed to conduct a meeting with representatives from local government, Catholic and other religious leaders and the police.

The meeting was filled with heated arguments. Catholic leaders were angry about conversion activities of other religious groups. However, at the end of the meeting, it was agreed to provide government land for a new graveyard. A team was appointed to look for suitable land. Batticaloa DIRC members agreed to pursue the matter.

Resolution of the matter was obstructed due to personal clashes and delay at the Divisional Secretariat’s end. DIRC members contacted the Batticaloa Government Agent (GA) and the Governor of Eastern Province. The governor wrote to GA and DS to inquire about the progress. The DS Vaharai told the GA that suitable land was available, that he was in the process of negotiating with local governmental authorities and that the ground would be cleared shortly.

The DIRC committee said that the skills and knowledge they had gained during capacity building sessions through the project helped them to deal with problems that arose. They had applied the skills such as Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and mediation during the negotiations.