After almost one year since the project began, it was clear that DIRC members were interested in finding similarities in different religious and cultural practices. As community leaders who were directly dealing with inter faith and inter ethnic issues, awareness on diversity and pluralism was essential to work effectively in their districts.
Among the topics covered at the workshops were a basic understanding of concepts of pluralism, diversity and inclusion; introduction to popular theories related pluralism; and challenges and advantages of a pluralistic society.
Participants discussed their understanding of pluralism according to their own experiences and according to definitions given by scholars. DIRC members separated into groups and identified the concepts of diversity and pluralism in their own religions and cultural practices.
An activity was conducted to help them to eliminate stereotyping while recognising the diversity of individuals. They identified the challenges and advantages of a pluralistic Sri Lanka. One concern was that even though the majority of the people wanted to live in peace and harmony, extremist groups were stirring up divisions for political and economic benefits.
Two workshops were also held on the Constitutional reform process under the same project in Trincomalee and Batticaloa. The topics included an introduction to Sri Lanka’s Constitutional history and an introduction to on going Constitutional reforms.
The Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform finalised its report in May 2016 but no programme has been carried out to take the content of the report to the general public.
Under the project, the report was summarised into five booklets, translated into Sinhala and Tamil and printed. The booklets were used to carry out awareness meetings on Constitutional reforms for DIRCs.
Some political parties and extremist groups, especially in the south, were spreading falsehoods and negative views on the proposed Constitutional reforms to turn communities against process. Raising awareness of DIRC members on the content and recommendations of the report and the importance of a new Constitution for sustainable peace and reconciliation was essential because they could give people the necessary knowledge to support the government’s efforts to establish a new Constitution.