Religions for Peace Sri Lanka Advances Post-War Reconciliation and Healing: RfP Sri Lanka’s 12th District-level Interreligious Council Launched in Kirinochchi, the most war-affected region and the ex-stronghold of LTTE
(7 November 2012 | Kirinochchi, Sri Lanka)
Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist leaders in the Kirinochchi district, the most war-affected region
and formerly the stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), launched the Religions for Peace (RfP) Sri Lanka-Kirinochchi District Interreligious Council on November 7, 2012. The inauguration was preceded by the RfP delegation’s visit to its Jaffna District Council for the monitoring of interreligious projects in youth leadership training, medical camps, Sinhara-Tamil language training, and women’s empowerment.
The United Nations reported that approximately 20,000 people were killed in the final days of the fighting in the region between the government forces and the LTTE, which added to the total death toll of 70,000 during the 30 year ethnic war. The RfP Kirinochchi District Council will serve as a mechanism to address the challenges of recovery from the devastation of war, resettlement of internally displaced people, reconciliation and social reconstruction in this war-torn region.
Jaffina and Kirinochchi District Council members were joined by the multi-religious delegation from the Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace led by its President The Most Venerable Prof. Wimalaratana Bellanwila Anunayaka Thero and other members of the RfP Sri Lanka Executive Committee, as well as RfP international delegates including Rev. Norio Sakai, an International Trustee, Mr. Stein Villumstad, General Secretary of European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General, RfP International.
A Tamil Hindu leader Kurukal Ratnaeswara, President of Kirinochchi Council of Religions for Peace and Secretary of the Iyyappan Temple Vaddakachchi stated “our people have endured tremendous suffering. We need to recover from the deep wounds of the war and rebuild our society. Religious leaders have an important role to play in healing the minds and hearts of people, and building a lasting peace with justice.” Vice President Fr. Jasuis, Director of Caritas and Dean of Kirinochchi Catholic Deanary, commented “we should not repeat the same mistakes. The solidarity and unity among religious leaders and believers should be the foundation for our efforts of building a sustainable peace in our region.”
Rev. Norio Sakai, an RfP International Trustee, congratulated Kirinochchi religious leaders and expressed his support for their efforts of reconciliation. Rev. Sakai thanked the Sri Lankan people for their assisting Japan in its recovery from the devastation of war. He shared an episode of the Late President of Sri Lanka J.R Jayawardene making a plea at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951, declaring Sri Lanka’s disclaiming war reparations from Japan. President Jayawardene supported the admission of war-torn Japan into the post war international community, quoting the words of the Buddhist Text Dhamapada: “hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love. This paved the way for Japan’s speedy post-war recovery and reconstruction,” Rev. Sakai noted.
Mr. Stein Villumstad, General Secretary of ECRL-RfP, acknowledged the great challenges still ahead of the Kirinochchi community and stated “people in Europe followed the tragedy in your region with great concern, and the members of ECRL-RfP who represent all major faith traditions, support you in your challenging journey towards just and sustainable peace. Your newly established district council of Religions for Peace can make an important difference through following its slogan: ‘Different faiths – Common Action’”
Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General of RfP International, reflected on the history of RfP
International’s engagement in the track 2 negotiations in the war zones before the ceasefire agreement was signed, including its shuttle diplomacy and meetings with Mahayanakes (Buddhist highest authorities) and the LTTE leaders in Kirinochchi in 2002. Rev. Sugino stated “Sri Lankan religious leaders have taken another important step today to build an interreligious mechanism in the most war affected region. The Kirinochchi Council of Religions for Peace is an expression of a profound commitment of the people in this war-torn region to never allowing any violece or conflict to happen again in the future and their resolve to advance reconciliation among different ethnic and religious communities.”
Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace has been at the forefront of building bridges among communities throughout Sri Lanka. Established by leaders from Sri Lanka’s major religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity—Religions for Peace Sri Lanka is devoted to advancing peace in Sri Lanka by fostering dialogue among communities and implementing concrete action to advance development and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Currently composed of 12 District Interreligious Councils across the country, Religions for Peace Sri Lanka mobilizes religious leaders and communities at the grassroots level to engage in robust activities and programs that promote reconciliation, healing and harmonious living.