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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

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Peace, pre-condition for progress

The Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace (SLCRP) held its inauguration ceremony on Saturday January 22, 2011 in Colombo. Prime Minister D M Jayaratne was the chief guest. Other distinguished guest speakers included World Conference of Religions for Peace Secretary General Dr William F Vendley, European Council of Religion Leaders Moderator Rev Bishop Gunnar Stalset, Ven Prof Bellanvila Wimalaratana Anunayaka Thera, Kandy Bishop Rev Dr Valancy Fernando and Religions for Peace (Japan) International Trustee Rev Norio Sakai

Once again time has been gracious enough to give us another opportunity to make amends for all commissions and omissions that have taken place, whether wittingly or unwittingly. On a few other occasions, too, we had good opportunities. But we have failed to make the best use of them. The respite we have at the moment should not be allowed to slip off. All of us had to make huge sacrifices to obtain this respite. So, all of us are stakeholders of this precious situation and it is of paramount importance that we all should collectively and committedly join hands to put right what has gone wrong.

Ven Prof Bellanvila Wimalaratana Anunayaka Thera

It is in this context that we, as religious leaders, thought is prudent to join hands and take the initiative to gear up to handle this precious opportunity. Though religions at times in the hands of unscrupulous individuals and groups have turned out to be major divisive forces, we are convinced that, if properly utilized religions serve as beacon lights guiding the humankind from darkness to light, from insanity to sanity, from conflict to unity.

It is this conviction, strengthened by the experience gained previously through working in collaboration with other religionists that embolden us to forge a broadbased Council of religious leaders and religious dignitaries. Such collaborative work is indispensable in a social milieu as the one that prevails in Sri Lanka.

Major religions

The population of Sri Lanka is constituted of adherents of four major religions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. This situation has prevailed over the last few centuries; and in spite of a few sporadic incidents, virtually the situation has been one of goodwill, co-operation and understanding. Perhaps, religion is the major source of influence on peopleís thinking, attitudes, approaches and general outlook regarding matters that affect their day-to-day life. Hence religious leaders are in a position to exert much influence on the people.

It is no over-statement to say that their influence over the people is stronger and more effective than that of politicians. This not merely adds to the importance of the religious leaders as agents of social change, but also I make of incumbent upon them to play a dynamic role in working for the progress of the society.

This is a crucial juncture in our history that calls for intervention of the religious leaders to guide and help the society in a vast range of spheres. The evil, long spell of the disastrous war has come to and end, at least in the war-front. The countryís sufferance is not limited only to lost of thousands of lives, but also to total destruction of all sorts of infrastructure. The ruthless war did severely wound the feelings and sentiments of many, making most lose humaneness. Many of the affected parties feel betrayed, abandoned and left to find their own way. There donít seem to be the required feeling of amity and trust. Yet, there is too much political bickering, parties of different hues and political ideologies engaged in verbal battles, causing much confusion and disunity among the ordinary people. All these have made the authorities mix up priorities.

Affected parties

It is in this background that religious leaders thought it prudent to step in and urge all parties to bury the hatchet and worker unison to take the country out of this chaotic situation, and lead it to a better future. We as religious leaders have already set an example by forging a unity among the major religions and forming the Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace (SLCRP).

This Council is constituted of religious leaders of all four major religions that prevail in Sri Lanka namely, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Yet, this is not the religious forum. This is also a completely an apolitical Council. It is very heartening to find that there is total consensus among the Founder Members of the Council regarding the objectives for which this is establish and also regarding the place and the role each religion occupies in the culture of Sri Lanka as well as the ambit within which each religion should contribute to successfully achieve the Councilís objectives.

Hence, naturally Buddhism and Buddhist religious leaders are entrusted with the major responsibility of streamlining all procedural activities, coordinating work plans, arranging areas of priorities that need to be urgently addressed and so on. The main target of the Council is to prepare the ground to usher in truly long lasting peace.

There is no need to underscore the fact that establishment of peace is the necessary and indispensable pre-condition for progress. Why Sri Lanka is merely inching forward, even after the end of a grueling war, is that there is no true peace in the country. Though everything happens to be smooth on the surface, there is distrust, disillusionment, disgust among the affected parties and this form a big obstacle in obtaining their total commitment and participation in the process of the rebuilding the devastated country. It is very necessary to get the committed participation of all, for otherwise progress would be hampered and delayed.

The most fundamental step in rebuilding the nation is building up of trust, confidence and understanding among all segments and strata of the society. To establish such a mind-set among all it is mandatory for those who are engaged in taking steps to rebuild the country to rise above petty divisions of all types. Being apolitical is not enough. Those directly involved in the rebuilding process have the rise above all kinds of narrow divisions; religious, ethnic, case, regional and so on.

Rebuild country

The Founder Members of the SLCRP weighed all pros and cons and deliberated at length regarding the objectives and means of attaining them. Through these deliberations it was found that religious teaching and could be fruitfully used to heal the wounds that have gone deep in to minds of some segments of the society and assure them that we all can live peacefully as the children of Mother Sri Lanka. We have lived in this manner for quite a long time, mutually helping and caring for each other.

All religions shun acts of inequality, all kinds of discrimination, all divisive forces that create disunity. Buddhism teaches oneness of humankind. Using different expressions and idioms all religions echo similar teachings. The SLRCP is basing its action plan on the common humanistic fundamentals embodies in religions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

It is quite well-known that though religions have separate identities, advocate different paths and goals, all of them converge at one point and that converging point is the good, benefit and well-being of all.

The SLCRP works on this broad principle of good, benefit and well-being of all. This provides a level ground for all religions to work in unison, maintaining their separate identities. This, Council feels should be made the motto of all, including the political authority, who are truly committed to rebuild the country and lead it to a prosperous future.

The Council is very realistic and also optimistic with regard to achieving its objectives. It is not aiming to build an Utopia, but a peaceful country ready to take a long leap to a better future. This realistic objective can be achieved and already the Council is assured of help and co-operation of other world bodies who are ready to help.

Hence, the SLCRP is hopeful that it will be able to help the process of establishing peace, bringing about mutual trust, harmony among all and thus contributing to the process of rebuilding the country and leading it to a very peaceful and prosperous future.

 

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