October 2023

Engaging the National Level for Religious Coexistence

The Action for Religious Coexistence (ARC) project implemented by NPC conducted a residential training programme for 43 CBOs and NGOs from 13 districts focused on developing the capacity and the understanding of the participants on the importance of establishing pluralism and the rule of law to bring about religious coexistence.

Participants were introduced post-independence political development that acted as a catalyst for creating an environment that fostered impunity and corruption and eroded values of good governance, rule of law and pluralism for a narrow political agenda that was founded on religion and nationalism.

NPC Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera spoke about the fundamental problems that existed from post-independence because of the lack of accountability and inclusiveness. He pointed out that the national issues, the leftist insurrections and injustices suffered by the Malaiyaha community all stemmed from a lack of accountability and due to impunity, adding that if the rule of law had prevailed, the economic crisis could have been avoided because decisions would have been made in the interest of the whole country.

Mr. D.M. Dissanayake from the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence introduced the concept of the rule of law and its relation to pluralism. He mentioned the non-implementation of 13 amendment and the postponement of elections as instances of flouting the law.

Professor Upul Abeyrathna spoke on ethnicity and religion.

The issue of giving Buddhism a special place in the Constitution was discussed, with some of the participants saying it has not been favourable for reconciliation. They also said that there should a policy saying all religious must be included in any state event. The state and politicians and civil society have an obligation to not use religion for political or personal advantage, they said.

Participants said that with the introduction to concepts of rule of law and pluralism, they would be better able to promote the rule of law and pluralism. They wanted to work with NPC on the issue of religious coexistence for a better Sri Lanka.