As Director of the Social and Economic Development Centre (SEDEC) in 1993, Fr. Oswald Firth encouraged spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka to play a bridge building role calling for peace and reconciliation and to commit themselves to sustained efforts, sacrifice and solidarity to create an atmosphere of trust, confidence and freedom to build a future based on the values of justice, human dignity and mutual respect.

He wrote: “Everyone seems wants to want peace. But peace is more than a seasonal greeting or a mere cessation of hostilities. It is a way of life; a spirituality that challenges the mind-sets, our attitudes and our values. Peace respects the space within which each community is able to live and grow in their rich cultural heritage. But peace extends over and beyond the limits of each community to bind people together and nurture among them a fecund cross cultural exchange. Peace cannot be achieved by words alone. It needs people of daring, people with a vision who will arrest whatever dehumanizes people and promote avenues for people to meet, share their resources and be mutually enriched. It will need people of great courage who will not succumb to adverse criticism, but draw strength for their initiatives from the spiritual forces inherent in our religions and cultures.”

One of his early strategies was the formation of an Inter-Religious Core Group, representative of all religions in Sri Lanka, to give effect to his strategy. The strategic interventions made by this group during the 1994 Presidential Election campaign specifically, and for a peaceful and permanent resolution to the protracted conflict generally, led to the organization of the first national peace conference the same year. The vision and mandate of the National Peace Council (NPC) were formulated at this conference, leading to the establishment of NPC in February 1995. This was the realization of his dream articulated in 1993.

Having been in the forefront of facilitating the establishment of NPC, one of the first strategies adopted by Fr. Firth was for SEDEC to take a back seat from then on. While supporting NPC both in terms of finance and manpower initially, he enabled the organization to develop truly as a national and independent entity and become part of an international network promoting peace and reconciliation, sharing its experiences and learning from the knowledge of others. NPC will ever remain grateful to Fr. Oswald Firth’s vision that led to the creation of an inclusive movement for peace.

Personally I would like to confess that he instilled into us who were close to him a spirituality of reconciliation, which we have carried with us during the past three decades. Fr. Firth was one of the best minds I have encountered, who was emotionally and passionately committed to conflict transformation, who believed in peace with justice and peace with human dignity, true to the
scriptural spirituality, “True justice is the harvest reaped by peacemakers from seeds sown in a spirit of peace” (St James Ch.3:18).

Dr Joe William

About us

The National Peace Council (NPC) was established as an independent and impartial national non-government organization