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THIS IS A KAIROS MOMENT
" Sri Lanka is now at a crucial stage in its quest for reconciliation. Our future as a united or divided nation will depend on the decisions taken, or not taken, by our politicians at this point ", said Rev Fr Vimal Tirimanne CSSR in his introductory remarks as moderator of a Caritas dialogue session held last week at the SEDEC auditorium with the participation of several political personalities. " The President is enjoying great popular support and the government commands a huge majority in parliament. So, this is the moment. Even extreme political views can be met with the present political power of the President. It is indeed a KAIROS moment ", Fr Tirimanne said.
Hon Dilan Perera, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Hon Neomal Perera, Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Parliamentarians Hon M A Sumanthiran, Hon Wijitha Herath, Hon Dayasiri Jayasekera, Hon Sujeeva Senasinghe and Provincial Councillor Ven Baddegama Samitha Thero participated in this forum held under the title " Role of future political leaders in the process of healing and reconciliation towards sustainable peace in the country".
Fr Tirimanne further pointed out that while it is the politicians of the past who were responsible for the current situation, the present politicians, whatever be their political ideologies, must together shoulder a heavy responsibility to bring about peace and reconciliation after these 30 years of bloodshed. Violence thrives on injustice and human rights violations. Defeating ruthless violence was surely a first step, but eradicating the socio-political causes of the conflict is equally important and this has to be done sooner rather than later, Fr Tirimanne observed. President Mahinda Rajapakse is in a position to take vital decisions that will give equality to all citizens and grant them their just rights. However, this cannot and must not be done unilaterally but only through consultation, he said, adding that the government must create an atmosphere for this KAIROS moment to actualize.
Rev Fr George Sigamoney, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC in his welcome address noted that politicians of a younger generation may hold the key to an entirely new approach in putting the past behind and taking the country forward on a path towards sustainable peace. " You have the capacity to bring a certain freshness to the existing political culture and transform adversarial politics into consensual politics ", he told the panelists. " Being youthful, you can be bold and creative. You can take risks and accept challenges. Above all, you have the golden opportunity to demonstrate to the citizens of this country that you possess a political maturity which rises above narrow and divisive agendas ".
Reiterating the role of the Church in the search for true peace and reconciliation, Fr Sigamoney emphasised that while Caritas has, for many years, been working on grassroots level peace programs and promoting several interreligious initiatives for national unity, the Church in Sri Lanka is at all times prepared to engage with stakeholders in the political and social arena for the achievement of true peace. " As a Church institution, Caritas will support whatever genuine reconciliation efforts are taken, wherever and by whosoever taken ", Fr Sigamoney assured.
Most Rev Dr Norbert Andradi OMI, Bishop of Anuradhapura in his remarks said that truth is the first casualty of war. " Yet, peace is based only on truth, however bitter it is. It is not based on lies. Truth hurts us first and only then does it liberate us ", His Lordship pointed out. " We cannot simply bury the past and then expect to find true peace. We have to learn to deal with our past and our hurt. We need to learn from our mistakes ".
Bishop Andradi exhorted politicians to earn the respect of the people, saying that a lot of cleansing is needed in the political arena. " We are ready to work with politicians and with the leadership in the country. However, at present there is no democracy, no press freedom and we are afraid to speak. As a result, we are unable to work for a sustainable peace. But yet we owe it to the next generation to do today whatever we have to do. Silence, though golden, can be very sinful at times ", the Bishop noted.
Mr Newman Fernando, Senior Executive Manager of SEDEC proposed the Vote of Thanks at the end of the dialogue session which was attended by a number of Clergy and Religious as well as lay persons from North and South.