The second Inter-Religious Symposium organized by Caritas Sri Lanka was held in Batticaloa recently with the objective of creating opportunities for peace and harmony between different religious groups in the country. Several religious leaders representing Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian faiths, Diocesan level inter religious group members, government officers, Caritas Batticaloa – EHED staff and several key Caritas National Centre Staff participated in the 2-day programme, held at the Miani Technical Institute and Town Hall in Batticaloa.
Around 130 participants from the 4 Dioceses of Badulla, Batticaloa, Galle, and Rathnapura came together on 28th and 29th of August.
The two-day symposium included many significant activities such as inter-religious observances, group discussions, religious dialogues, cultural presentations, and a Peace and Reconciliation Walk.
Meanwhile, the group discussions during the symposium were directed at finding solutions for the several key issues that have been stumbling blocks to the creation of a conducive environment for religious amity.
Addressing the audience through narrations, the Bishop of Batticaloa, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ponniah who was also the Chief Guest of the occasion stated that Sri Lanka has different cultures, religions, and races and we live in such diversity. Still, that is the beauty of this country and that should be our strength. Further reiterating the importance of the sustaining peace and harmony among religions he said if the religious leaders are spiritually rich, we would not have had misunderstandings and conflicts among religions.
National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka, Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke speaking to the audience praised the religious leaders for their valuable participation on the occasion, especially for spending their valuable time and collaborating with the efforts taken by Caritas Sri Lanka in creating opportunities for inter-religious peace and harmony.
Rev.Fr.A.A. Navaretnam, Senior Lecturer attached to the Faculty of Arts and Culture at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka delivered the main speech. He pointed out the importance and possibility of preserving the religious identity, especially through the inter-religious dialogues. He said that dialogues make space for knowledge enhancement, interaction and networking with others while helping each involved to work together. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, we do not see a much closer level of dialogues between different religions or races. He further said that we should go beyond mere religious limitations to foster a culture of strong inter-religious dialogues. For him, it is the responsibility of every Sri Lankan and no one is exempted.
In the evening of the first day, a cultural presentation was held to showcase the talents of the participants while creating space to appreciate and show the willingness of the participants to enjoy diverse cultural artistic expressions.
The second day of the symposium started with the walk where the participants held posters and placards depicting slogans of religious amity. Later participants gathered at the Batticaloa Town Hall and the religious leaders representing 4 major religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity recited prayers and chanting in their respective faiths.
The programme was held under the guidance of the Caritas Batticaloa – EHED Director, Rev. Fr. Gerond De Lima.
This is a Caritas Norway – NORAD supported 3-year project implemented between 2015 and 2017.