NPC has set up 16 District Inter Religious Committees (DIRCs) in all parts of the country, which contribute to civil society’s efforts to address conflict transformation and reconciliation by building community support for the national Transitional Justice process, especially truth telling and building trust within their communities.
The main objective of the symposium was to acknowledge the successes and failures of the intervention process by DIRCs in addressing ethnic and religious issues in selected districts. This will provide important lessons in dealing with the current issue of inter community and inter religious violence that troubles the country.
Addressing the symposium former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Chairperson of Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), stressed the urgent need for a new Constitution, which was necessary to build national unity and peace.
“Minority rights should be ensured by law through the Constitution, either with amendments or with a new Constitution. The government has to do this. It is moving very slowly,” she said.
The foundation for development, she said, lies through peace. “NPC is rendering a very important service. Let us all get together and strengthen the process.”
She said it was good to see that Buddhist monks were getting together at district level and working towards reconciliation.
Mano Ganesan, Minister of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages, said the question of language use was one of the main issues in the ethnic conflict. He said his ministry was taking measures to ensure that the provisions on language use in the current Constitution were implemented, including training language officers and using technology for translating.
NPC Chairman Joe William pointed out that religious intolerance was still a threat undermining the hard work to build reconciliation and peace. However, Sri Lanka was a multi ethnic and multi religious country whose survival depended on being able to coexist harmoniously.
“The challenge is for communities to live peacefully and denounce acts of violence. All religions preach the golden rule - do not do to another what you do not want done to yourself,” he said.
German Ambassador Jorn Rohde thanked the DIRCs for their daily work that created trust and understanding among communities in Sri Lanka. He added that religions impacted all people and were a source of solidarity, while playing an important role in promoting peace.
Representatives from the 16 districts shared gave an overview of the ethnic and religious issues that created conflict in their areas and highlighted instances where DIRCs had intervened and prevented an escalation of tension and violence.