ucanews.com reporter, Mannar
Updated: July 19, 2016 08:06 AM GMT
The 400-year-old Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in northeastern Sri Lanka is a center for devotion for both Tamils and Sinhalese. (ucanews.com photo)
Caritas Sri Lanka has organized an event to respond to what they say is an urgent need to reconcile individuals and communities who experienced three decades of ethnic-related civil war.
Over 100 Sinhalese and Tamils from Jaffna, Mannar, Kandy and Anuradhapura dioceses gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu Shrine Retreat House on July 15 — 16 to "bring hearts and minds together for national reconciliation."
"On the first day they had some fear but that vanished and they became good friends," said Father M. Jeyabalan, who works for reconciliation between the two ethnic groups. "The program helped people understand the importance of reconciliation," he said.
"Such programs take place at the community level and pave the way to create sustainable peace," the priest said. "We want to promote inter-ethnic and inter-cultural harmony and create a sustainable peace in the country."
The program commenced with a short walk with participants carrying lit candles as a sign of their support and commitment toward the reconciliation process.
Input sessions and discussions mobilized the views and opinions of attendants, helping them form an action plan for sustainable peace in Sri Lanka, said organizers.
Quintus Anthonypillai, manager of the Social Justice and Sustainable Peace Unit of Caritas Sri Lanka, said that the active involvement of participants showed their commitment to reconciliation.
"We will continue the process in another two dioceses," said Anthonypillai.
There were "discussions, resolving areas of misunderstanding and trust-building exercises," he said.
Caritas Sri Lanka organized the event at the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, which was shelled many times during the decades-long conflict. It is now a center of devotion for both Tamil and Sinhalese.
The war that began in 1983 came to an official end May 18, 2009 when the government overran the Tamil Tigers, an insurgent group that fought to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the country's North and East. According to the United Nations the war claimed the lives of at least 40,000 civilians in its final days alone.