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Language 'barrier to reconciliation'
Inter-religious forum identifies obstacles to creating lasting peace after civil warReligious leaders attend a Caritas conference in Colombo
- ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
- Sri Lanka
- December 7, 2011
â€śMistrust and doubt prevails among Sinhalese and Tamils when they associate,â€ť according to Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue.
He was addressing a recent conference in Colombo organized by Caritas Sri Lanka, in association with the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies.
These obstacles are compounded by language barriers, but can be overcome if more efforts are made to bridge this gap and show respect and tolerance to others with help from various religious bodies, he said.
The bishopâ€™s views were echoed by Hindu priest, Siva Sri Ramachandran Babu Sharma, vice-president of the Hindu Advisory Council, who however expressed hope that this might be beginning to change.
â€śTamils and Sinhalese have traditionally been reluctant to learn both languages, but now are being compelled to through government and NGO projects which are positive signs,â€ť he said.
Despite Sinhala and Tamil being Sri Lankaâ€™s official languages there has been a traditional reluctance among the two communities to learn the language of the other.
The religious leaders said it was this basic breakdown in communication which sparked riots after 1958 and the long-running war.
â€śWe will form village level inter-religious groups and organize more awareness programs to overcome these challenges. SinhalaÂ and Tamil new year is one occasionÂ to cultivate unity and harmony,â€ť the Hindu priest said.
Venerable professor Bellanwila Wimalarathane Nayaka Thero, chancellor of Sri Jayawardanapura university, said although bad memories are still fresh people need to look to the future.
â€śIt is hard but people on both sides have to change the way they think. Sinhalese and Tamils must try to forget the bad memories of the past and not throw stones at each other,â€ť he said.