Sri Lanka’s prime minister says he is willing to discuss any problems concerning activities promoting inter-religious unity following criticism from Buddhists. Voicing alarm at poster campaigns and newspaper articles criticizing inter-religious activities, Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage Jayaratna, who is also religious affairs minister said he would be quite happy to listen to people’s grievances. “It is difficult to work under pressure. But I am ready to discuss with any group who are not happy with our inter-religious programs. I will always welcome suggestions to improve them,” he said. The premier was referring to inter religious committees he set up in all the country’s districts under the umbrella Inter-religious Alliance for National Unity movement to promote religious unity and to help tackle national political, economic and spiritual challenges. “The purpose of forming these committees is to re-build national unity and inter-religious harmony. It is essential for the development of our country. It is not to harm Buddhism,” Jayaratna said. The prime minister was speaking in the wake of a meeting of the Joint Committee of Buddhist Organizations in Colombo which attacked the way inter-religious activities in the country are being carried out. “Some Buddhist monks are leading a double life with one leg in the temple the other leg in the church. They should know that they are wearing a yellow robe not a cassock,” said Buddhist monk Aravwala Sudhamma Thero, according to media reports. However, Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thero, co-chairman of the World Conference of Religions (WCR) said that, “Most people appreciate the prime minister’s work promoting inter-religious harmony. “It’s only some Buddhist monks who are not happy with certain things such as the forming of committees,” he continued. One inter-religious committee member disagreed with the criticism. “There is a vital need to establish these kinds of committees to build peace and understanding with each other after 30 years of war,” said Bishop Kingsley Swampillai of Trincomallee and Batticaloa, member of inter-religious committee in Trincomalee. “It is a peoples’ movement. We are not converting anyone to any religion. This movement tries to build dialogue to build peace and reconciliation,” he said. SR13353.1642
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