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Thursday, 06 May 2021 16:35

Exchange Visits Build Religious Understanding and Tolerance

Members of Kuliyapitiya, Panduwasnuwara, Batticaloa and Addalachenai Local Inter Religious Committees (LIRCs), including 50 religious leaders of different faiths, participated in a three day exchange visit conducted to facilitate empathy through experience sharing and interaction under NPC’s project Collective Engagement for Religious Freedom (CERF).

The religious leaders visited Batticaloa and Addalachenai to share learnings, recommend good practices and facilitate dialogue on religious teachings and interfaith coexistence. They went to places of religious worship including mosques, temples and churches, and discussed pluralism and coexistence through reflections of historical incidents to create broader understanding.

A seminar was held in Kattankudy with the participation of religious leaders, state officials, police officers and community leaders of the Addalachenai and Batticaloa LIRCs where participants shared their experiences in planning, designing and implementing committee interventions to promote interfaith coexistence and religious freedom. Religious leaders said that it was the first time they had participated in an event where leaders of all faiths interacted with each, which helped them understand that at the core of every religion there is peace and harmony.

“This was a novel experience for me. I have never participated in an event where religious leaders of all faiths interact with each other, learning about each other’s religious teachings and cultural practices. We, as religious leaders, have a duty to promote coexistence and harmony and if we adhere to our religious teachings and treat all beings with respect, our followers will do the same. This was a good opportunity to build unity among religious communities,” said Dhamma Pradeepa Sil Maeniyo, a female Buddhist religious leader.

Also under the CERF project, training programmes on gender were conducted for the members of the Akurana and Weligama LIRCs conducted by Mr. Velusamy Weerasingham, aimed at improving gender consciousness and sensitization among LIRC members to create the space for inclusive participation and decision making, both within and outside the committee. The training covered concepts including the differentiation between gender and sex, the concept of masculinity and femininity, gender mainstreaming and gender in peacebuilding and decision making.

“We need to take a long, hard look at the situation pertaining to gender equality and inclusivity. It is unfortunate that we have become insensitive towards equal treatment of all genders. We must take action to create the inclusive future we seek where all are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Mohammed Munzir Moulavi.