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New Year unites all religions

Christians are increasingly participating in what was once a mainly Buddhist and Hindu event

New Year unites all religions
Buddhists worshiping at Kalutara temple in Sri Lanka reporter, Galle
Sri Lanka

April 14, 2011

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Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations bring an opportunity to foster inter-religious and cross-cultural harmony in Sri Lanka. Christians, along with the Buddhist majority and Tamil Hindu minority were holding the New Year celebrations yesterday and today. People from all religions lent a hand in organizing this year’s celebrations in villages and cities across Sri Lanka. "A fire is lit, milk is boiled and traditional dishes are prepared and served up by most households," said Nalani Fernando, a Catholic mother from Galle. "Homes are beautifully decorated for the occasion and open to friends and visitors," she said. "Milk boiled in a new earthenware pot symbolizes prosperity when it rises and spills over the sides of the pot," said Fernando who is married to a Buddhist. "New Year is a festival where people from all ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka can and should celebrate as one to foster national unity in Sri Lanka. “Catholic and Buddhist youngsters worked together to make this festival meaningful. It is necessary for religious leaders to come forward and foster unity amid diversity among people of all religions and races," said Fernando. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year used to be celebrated mainly by Buddhists and Hindus. However, Christians have increasingly become involved, making the celebrations a nation-wide event. “It creates harmony among different faiths," said Nelum Anthonius, a 35-year-old Buddhist. "I am very happy to see Christians joining in the celebrations and taking part in traditional games and sports," said Anthonius. Sinhalese people form about 74 percent of the country's estimated 20 million people, with Tamils making up about 18 percent. There are around 1.3 million Catholics in Sri Lanka. SR13969.1649
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