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His Excellency the President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation launched a programme in February 2017 in Colombo to institutionalize National Integration and reconciliation into the Sunday religious schools teaching covering Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim religions. As a continuation of this programme, a national reconciliation event was held in Jaffna at Weerasingham Hall on 23rd May 2017 with the participation of over 1000 religious school teachers to introduce and institutionalize National Integration and Reconciliation concepts and principles to the Sunday school teaching. This programmes was well received by the Sunday school teachers and the District officials, said   Mr. V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation

The vision and objectives of the programme is to create a conflict-free, united, reconciled society where everybody respects the different religious principles and philosophies and establish harmonious society which leads to prosperity. Respecting and valuing diversity in religions, languages, ethnicity and promoting and facilitating integration and reconciliation and building an inclusive society was identified as the important theme and the mission of this programme.

This dialogue session also discussed about the importance of sustainable peace and national Integration as the fundamental pillar to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The discussions concluded that in a”pluralistic society” religion has   the power and potential to unite people of different language and ethnicity. All religions teach the principles of kindness, love, compassion, forgiveness, equity, brotherhood and mutual respect. The session also referred to H.E the President Maithripala Sirisena’s statement “ Religions are the most precious guidelines of human civilization and all individuals should practice the teachings of peace, unity and patience as taught in the respective religions”  The dialogue session also discussed that Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed and Hinduism leaders are great “Messengers of Peace and Reconciliation” and called citizens of all ethnicities join hands in brotherhood and unity. The session speakers also urged all moderates on the middle path to reject extremist views of all sides.  Only wise men can achieve and enjoy the blessings of peace. The foolish will always put it in jeopardy. Peace can never co-exist with violence, ill will and hatred.  

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The dialogue session also concluded that the children in the previous generation were “cultural children”  whereas today’s children are “technology children”  and therefore there is an urgent need to inculcate Sunday Religious Teaching with reconciliation programmes  as mandatory to enhance the morale values of the society. The session also concluded that the reconciliation process needs to be supported with healing and reparation programme which includes durable solutions for conflict affected people such as release of private lands, housing programme, social and economic infrastructure, livelihood opportunities and other economic empowerment programmes to provide employment to youth and engage them in development rather than getting themselves to be distracted to other socially unacceptable involvements.

In order to build a harmonious society and prosperous nation we must join hands to eliminate extremism, discrimination and segregation. Reconciliation is a long term journey which requires active engagement of all citizen and communities and aimed to provide space for peaceful and dignified living. Under this initiative religious school teachers are identified as change makers and are given knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) on integration and reconciliation. Training materials and knowledge products are being developed with the support of the religious departments to empower the religious teachers to effectively contribute as peace messengers, said  Mr. V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation

At the end of the programme, all thousand Sunday religious teachers read the National declaration on reconciliation and confirmed their involvement to serve as Peace Messengers and Change Agents and inculcate reconciliation through the religious values and principles and impart to the young children to make them good citizens. The National event also emphasized that the religious fanaticism, language extremism, regional extremism and hate speeches should be eliminated to ensure peace, integration and reconciliation. This National event was attended by Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation, Hon. C.V.K.Sivagnanam, Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council, Mr. A. Nadarajan, Consulate General, High Commission of India, Jaffna and Mr. N. Vethanayahan, District Secretary, Jaffna, Mr. A. Pathinathan, Chief Secretary, Northern Provincial Council, Mr.L.Ilangovan, Secretary to the Governor of the Northern Province, Divisional Secretaries, Religious leaders and over thousand Sunday school teachers.

We are moving towards the kingdom with no discrimination based on languages, race, social status and even gender. The workshop finally concluded with a call “Lets become the agents of peace, harmony and reconciliation with tolerance and co-existence” Religion makes mankind and people to show compassion and kindness to others and the empathetic towards  others.

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