Defusing tensions and promoting peace in Sri Lanka

This month’s surprise election result in Sri Lanka highlights the crucial need for peacebuilding in this post-war country. Commentators warn of the potential for instability as incoming President Maithripala Sirisena seeks to lead a mixed coalition of ethnic, religious and ideological parties. A peaceful transfer of power is crucial, to avoid a recurrence of the tensions that have caused civil war in the past. Our local partners CPBR have worked for a decade to defuse tensions between religious and ethnic groups on the island and to promote peace between the diverse Sri Lanka communities.

voi-exhibition-sqThis month’s surprise election result in Sri Lanka highlights the crucial need for peacebuilding in this post-war country. Commentators warn of the potential for instability as incoming President Maithripala Sirisena seeks to lead  a mixed coalition of ethnic, religious and ideological parties. A peaceful transfer of power is crucial, to avoid a recurrence of the tensions that have caused civil war in the past.

Our local partners CPBR have worked for a decade to defuse tensions between religious and ethnic groups on the island and to promote peace between the diverse Sri Lanka communities. In particular they have focussed on inter-religious peacebuilding, mobilising priests from Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity to promote tolerance among their communities. As Pope Francis visits the island to encourage inter-faith dialogue of this kind, CPBR’s approach offers a powerful example of how it can be done.

In 2014, CPBR’s community peacebuilding programmes reached an incredible 38,876 people. They have worked directly with 5,676 staff, volunteers and community and religious leaders through 8 large project initiatives – from festival celebrations, peace talks and peace visits in 5 provinces, to working with prestigious community leaders through the new Female Interfaith Forum – not to mention the fantastic Voice of Image photography project and the exhibitions and book launch it has inspired.

CPBR demonstrate the idea that Peace Direct have been championing for over a decade – that local people are best placed to build their own peace.

Inspired by CPBR, Sri Lankans such as Jezooli, 19, want to use their voices to reduce religious tensions. He says:

There are many feelings and thoughts that I cannot put into words. Voice of Image photography has given me an opportunity to give expression to them. I believe our society has great capacity to do good things which are hidden in much the same way. We need to unearth these, and I believe VOI is a good way to do this. Kathankudy society looks up to me, and so I have a special duty towards it.

The experience of Jezooli is just one example of a young person determined to replace mistrust with co-existence, and fear with understanding. All over Sri Lanka, CPBR’s team work to challenge narratives of hatred, provoke new ideas and encourage peaceful connections between people of different religions and faiths. These young people are the next generation of leaders who will work to prevent future violence and hostility.

It is our supporters who have made this possible, who have supported local people to bridge the divides after war, and who will allow them to lead the way towards a peaceful future. CPBR have been influential in Sri Lanka communities, bridging tensions that have led to war in the past and promoting peace between the diverse Sri Lanka groups. Support to them cannot come at a more important time. If you are inspired by their success and want to be part of this, you can sign up for a regular donation here or find out more about other exciting ways to get involved here.

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