Since 1980, the Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups in Sri Lanka have been facing conflict, and their society is deeply divided. As despite the official cessation of the civil war, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, who possess great influence both at the government and grassroots level, will have a major role to play in laying the foundations for the development of the country while maintaining a unified Sri Lankan society. From 2005 to 2006, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation conducted a project aimed at promoting dialogue between religious leaders. This bore fruit in the form of a number of committees, composed of leaders from the above four religions, which were established in localities around Sri Lanka and allow the Sri Lankan people to make their voices heard. To promote long-term integrated development for Sri Lanka, it will be necessary, with the aid of the influence of the committees of religious leaders, to educate and raise the capacity of the next generation of Sri Lankan leaders. Hence, in Phase 2 of this project, six training workshops for young leaders will be held annually in Anuradhapura, in central Sri Lanka, and a follow-up capacity building program, in which participants will conduct activities in their home community, will be carried out. Participants excelling in these activities will be granted permission to take part in a retreat meeting, in India, at a later date.
During the year-long project, the following activities will be carried out.
- Training workshop for young religious leaders in Sri Lanka:
(1) Liaison meeting (2 days, 5 facilitators, 25 local participants)
The committee of religious leaders established in Sri Lanka during Phase I of the project will select young leaders and carry out other liaison activities. Selection will be based on recommendations, recruitment and interviews carried out by the committee of religious leaders, which will be composed of senior religious leaders who participated in the project during Phase I, and will take into account ethnicity and religious background.
(2) Workshop for Young Leaders (7 days/6 nights, 13 participants, 6 workshops):
Workshops will be held at the training facility of the Sewalanka Foundation in Anuradhapura. Training at the workshops will center on facilitation and post-conflict reconciliation between ethnic groups with the aim of building trust and deepening understanding.
(3) Regional level workshop (1 day, 25 participants, 25 regions):
To put the above training into practice, participants will carry out roundtable discussions and other such activities in their home region. This will not only build the capacity of the participants, but will also promote understanding between different religious and ethnic groups at the community level. Two national conferences of religious leaders will be held over the course of the year, at which leaders will lobby politicians.
- Retreat meetings in three countries (Feb, Jul 2010, 30 participants, India)
Twenty-five individuals excelling at the training workshop will be invited to attend a retreat meeting in India. The retreat will provide an opportunity for thirty Sri Lankan individuals from differing ethnic backgrounds, including five senior religious leaders acting as lecturers, to engage with each other and advance discussion in an environment detached from their everyday life.
Sewalanka Foundation (Sri Lanka)
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