Imagine peace between peoples: Interfaith healing in Sri Lanka
In a nation of mixed religions, where Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists share the same communities, the Caritas work in Sri Lanka often crosses religious lines.
This is illustrated in the Inter-religious Peace Commitment Foundation, a group of leaders from each of the country’s major religions who have met regularly for more than 25 years.
The group’s president, Ven. Kegalle Pangharawa, a Buddhist monk, says the group arose from inter-religious conflicts that erupted in Galle in 1982.
“We didn’t have any plan to have an organisation like this. It came naturally,” said Ven. Pangharawa.
“There was a conflict between the people, and I was frustrated by what I saw. So I tried to tell the people to be peaceful. I thought if the religious leaders were living in harmony, the people should live in harmony,” he said.
Together, the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian clerics make regular public appearances and have been called upon by the government to serve as the highly visible face of harmony in Sri Lanka.
Group members take part in a range of national and international peacebuilding forums. Their message, says Ven. Ridiyagama Visuddhi, is simple.
“There is no such thing as Christian blood, no such thing as Buddhist blood, no such thing as Muslim blood,” Ven. Visuddhi said. “We are different by religion, but as humans we are all the same.”