A need-based training on team building and leadership was organized for Local Inter Religious Committee (LIRC) members in Rakwana under NPC’s Action for Religious Coexistence (ARC) project in collaboration with the District Secretariats in Rakwana and Godakawela. The 40 participants included religious leaders, police officers, Grama Niladari officers and NGO and community leaders.

Rakwana is a multi religious area that has experienced religious and ethnic tensions over the years. In response to these challenges, the LIRC was established in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted its work, hindering progress and straining relationships among committee members. The lack of opportunities for in-person interaction contributed to the limited establishment of inter religious awareness, trust and bonds within the group.

The goal of the training programme was to foster mutual trust and develop leadership skills among the LIRC committee members. By addressing the challenges posed by religious tensions, the programme facilitated positive attitudes, effective problem solving and cohesive teamwork. The participants had the opportunity to refresh their relationships and gained awareness of how to effectively deal with religious conflict.

H. Mansoor Moulavi from the Muhiyaddeen Jumma Mosque in Rakwana said, "This is really a different kind of experience for us. We joined the programme as one group. We were given space to solve some problems between us. I gained an understanding of how to develop leadership and team spirit. In particular, I understood how to manage a problem when it arises.”

P.K. Ariyawansha, a member of Rakwana LIRC, said, "The programme brought us some inspiration and change. I learned to look at problems in a new way. Through creative methods, I gained a good understanding of how a problem arises and how to solve it. This is a good opportunity to strengthen the unity of the Rakwana team."

The training in Rakwana promoted religious unity and enhanced leadership skills among LIRC members. Rakwana LIRC has been experiencing communication issues that affected decision making. Some member raised concerns that decisions made by religious leaders were not inclusive. It was recognised that there was a gap in communication and lack of trust, which challenged the decisions made by religious leaders as well as their authority.

To mitigate this team building, leadership and creative communication activities were implemented for participants to interact, solve problems and develop positive attitudes. This ensured a foundation for effective collaboration and understanding in addressing religious tensions. It is crucial to replicate these training programmes in other LIRC locations, tailored to their specific needs, to foster unity and create more inclusive and harmonious communities.

"We constantly use mass media to stay informed. However, not all the information we receive is accurate, making it challenging for people to discern the truth. Through this programme, I have gained insights into understanding media content, realising that there is more beneath the surface than meets the eye. Social media has become an integral part of our lives with its widespread usage but it lacks censorship, leading to the proliferation of anti-social ideas that pose a significant danger. So we have to correctly comprehend and interpret such information and its implications," said M.G.L. Kanchana, a Grama Niladari from Trincomalee.

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