As mentioned in the key findings of the survey, when asked about religious freedom in the areas in which they live, the great majority of respondents claimed that they could practice their religion freely. For example, 83.5% stated there is no obstacle at all to practice their religion in the area they live. However, these same respondents also believe that the situation in the country as a whole is more precarious for religious freedom.
It showed that the communities harbour various insecurities about the future. Even as they feel that they enjoy freedom in the present, they are very concerned about the freedom to practice their culture and religion, and their demographic strength in the future. They also felt that the sense of security that they experience in enhanced where there is a good understanding between the religious leaders in their area.
The main reasons for this would be the fact that the religious leaders are better able to intervene as community leaders in any internal breakdown of social harmony. Sri Lanka is fortunate to have the basic ingredient for social cohesion, which is the willingness of people to readily engage with those of other communities and to take them as opportunities to be hospitable to those from outside who have come into their midst.
But Sri Lanka also needs to go further. The people cannot control interventions that came from outside and more powerful than they. What is needed therefore is a national level leadership that permits each ethnic and religious community to have the freedom and rights to live as empowered citizens and to protect their own spaces. Each ethnic and religious community needs to be given the space, freedom and security to grow and flourish.
Dr Jehan Perera