For each meeting 25 District Inter Religious Committee (DIRC) members, including religious leaders, participated from their respective homes. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the PACT project and explain its concept and future activities, which was done by NPC Programme Advisor Sumadhu Weerawarne and Assistant Project Manager Rasika Seneviratne.
NPC Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera spoke on the current political situation of the country and Project Manager Saman Seneviratne presented the timeline of the project so far and some of its success stories.
DIRC members were asked about the subjects they would like to receive trainings on. These included learning about Non-Violent Communication; religious freedom and pluralistic society; democracy, good governance and human rights; ethical use of social media; and how to counter fake news and hate speech on social media. Members voted for their preferred subjects and two were chosen during each orientation meeting.
The training programmes will be conducted at a later date for DIRC members and civil activists in the districts who were interested in expanding their knowledge.
DIRC members also identified two local areas as hotspots of ethnic and cultural conflict in order to form two satellite committees in these areas.
“We need to add more people to these programmes who are committed, efficient and who interact with people of all religions and races; then it will be easy for us to build peace. If we do not have the ability to communicate with other communities then we look at them in a different light. When we work closely with people, we can understand whether they are in a conflict situation or not, and try to help them,” said Ven. Bodhilankara Thero from Polonnaruwa DIRC.
“Youth need to play a vital part in building a pluralistic society in Sri Lanka. They are vital in making the peace and reconciliation process a success. These programmes need to reach as many youth participants as possible. Youth groups that are moderate and welcome diversity exist in our communities; they should have a voice so that they can make an impact to help sustain peace and harmony in the country,” said Hasith Sandaruwan from Colombo DIRC.
A meeting of the Colombo DIRC was also held via zoom with 25 participants, including religious leaders, where members decided that they needed educational training on religious freedom,
differences between religions and the role of religious leaders; how to identify conflicts and react to them; and social media and its ethical usage.