The meetings focused on Local Inter Religious Committees (LIRC) and youth wings to motivate them to counter challenges in their communities and advocate for pluralism, equity and justice as the foundations for coexistence. Despite the pandemic and the economic situation in the country, 151 committee members and 146 youth wing members attended the meetings, which was a testament to the commitment of beneficiaries in working towards a common project goal.
Religious extremism, violence, misunderstandings among different communities and influence of media have weakened religious coexistence and LIRCs addressed these issues through their initiatives. The youth groups and LIRCs will be community intermediaries while taking the lead in advocating for an inclusive society.
Mohamed Mahroof in Trincomalee is a member of Trincomalee LIRC. He thinks that working with youth groups is the best strategy to change the attitudes and the behaviour of the younger generation.
As a member of the youth wing, Safeer Izzath said, “The programme exceeded my expectations. As young people we are not concerned about social divisions but conflicts could emerge due to the lack of mutual understanding among the younger generation. These mechanisms are needed to enhance the mutual trust and understanding among ourselves.”
Discussing future initiatives to eradicate mistrust, hate speech and misconceptions among religious communities in their areas, participants pledged their support to achieve the project results. Nelson De Silva from Beruwala LIRC emphasised the need for raising awareness of different communities at the village level. Members discussed cohesion and mitigation initiatives to enhance awareness using multiple approaches.
Fathima Fazeena from the Beruwala youth wing said, “Creating a platform for youth from different ethnic and religious groups is imperative in terms of enhancing our mutual understanding. Attitudinal changes are needed to undermine possible conflict situations in the future. Let’s do our best to achieve a realistic and long lasting peace in our areas.”