District leaders urged to lead in addressing religious & ethnic tensions



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From Left : UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo Una McCauley, Program Director and Senior Advisor of GIZ Christoph Feyen, Secretary Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation V. Sivagnanasothy, Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka Libuse Soukupova and First Secretary of British High Commission Paul Green.


by Zacki Jabbar


Members of District Reconciliation Committees have been urged to take the lead in addressing religious and ethnic tensions.


Keynote speakers at a conference of 25 District Reconciliation Committees held recently at the BMICH as a component of National Reconciliation Week, said that leaders at the grassroots were the best persons to inculcate in people the importance of National Integration and Reconciliation.


"You are the best persons to lead. There is no need to be looking back. Local communities look up to you," was the message conveyed in unison at the inauguration ceremony presided over by Secretary to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation V.Sivagnanasothy.


Among the speakers were UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo Una McCauley, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka Libuse Soukupova, Programme Director and Senior Advisor of GIZ Christoph Feyen, Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson and Secretary General of Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms Mano Tittawela.


Also present on the occasion were Canadian High Commissioner David McKinnon and First Secretary of the British High Commission Paul Green.


The Conference commenced with the pledge of National Declaration on Reconciliation and the Seven Core Values/Virtues on Reconciliation.


Sivagnanasothy said that the District Reconciliation Committees (DRC’s) proposed by President Maithripala Sirisena who was also Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation had been approved by the Cabinet.


The 25 DRCs which included over 200 inter-religious leaders, District Secretaries, retired Magistrates and school principals discussed reconciliation strategies and interventions and how to address ethnic and religious tensions through mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution, he noted.


He said that the 250 participants representing 25 Districts strategized the 2018 reconciliation intervention program and examined issues and challenges including operational modalities.


The participants discussed the need to meet regularly, maintain a database on incidents of ethnic and religious tensions and address attacks on religious places of worship and hate speech through social media and peace journalism, inculcating core values and virtues among students in schools, universities and Sunday religious schools and teachers and adults .


The meeting also identified the capacity gaps and provision of skills and training, on non-violent conflict resolution methods to the DRC members who were expected to promote unity, integration, reconciliation and peace building at the grass-roots level, Sivagnanasothy added.


The Forum was supported by the European Union funded "Strengthening the Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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