NPC, with the assistance of its partner organizations, conducted networking meetings in the districts of Ampara, Matara, Badulla, Kandy, Rakwana, Negombo, Trincomalee and Vavuniya. The way subnational NGOs interacted with multiple religious leaders at the meeting revealed gaps in their pluralism capacity. For example, they gave more attention and respect to the majority religious leaders in comparison to minority religious leaders.
The Jaffna District Inter Religious Committee (DIRC), with the guidance of its partner organization SOND, organised a peace march followed by a media conference. These were to highlight the growth in religious tension, request restraint on the part of all religions and to urge the government to prevent escalation.
When asked whether he thought the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) had done anything constructive for victim families or if it would do so, a former OMP official at an event organised by NPC was not optimistic. The official was attending one of the six review meetings held in Mannar, Batticaloa and Jaffna under the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CLFI)/OMP project at a regional level to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of OMP services received by the families of victims. The willingness of the new OMP leadership to collaborate with CSOs in improving their service is a positive indication of a new start.
The Advanced Certificate Course on sustainable peace through pluralism and inclusive service delivery was launched at the University of Ruhuna. As part of the Freedom House project, the course will introduce a new dimension to the university in supporting the public sector to improve the effectiveness and efficiency.
Saman Seneviratne, NPC’s Project Manager, is leaving the organization after two decades of dedicated and tireless service to the grassroots communities that NPC is engaged with. “NPC has come a long way since I accompanied Saman who was taking the lead to set up District Inter Religious Committees in places and towns I had never been to before. Some of those meetings were small with disempowered participants who did not know us and we did not know them. I saw the enormity of the challenge. Today when we go to those areas we are well recognised and those who attend our programmes are more empowered,” said NPC’s Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera.
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.
As in 16 other districts throughout the country, the Kandy District Inter Religious Committee (DIRC) meets regularly. The committee represents a common voice across all religions. While one channel of communications is media or press statements by religious leaders on provincial level, it is also a meeting platform for collective thought of all committee members including CBO and CSO representatives.
A workshop on pluralism and inclusion for 35 of senior prison officers from prisons in Sri Lanka was held under NPC’s project Plural Action for Conflict Transformation (PACT) with the participation of the Commissioner General of Prisons Chandana Ekanayake.