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Mr Aron Halfen, Caritas Norway Program Coordinator for Asia and Africa visited Sri Lanka from 12th to 19th October 2015. During his stay, he held discussions with Rev Fr George Sigamoney, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka and visited the Dioceses of Jaffna, Kurunegala, Batticaloa and Anuradhapura where projects and programs supported by Caritas Norway are being implemented.
In Kurunegala, Mr Aron met with members of the Interreligious Forum set up under the Religious Amity project. This is one of the 50 such Forums formed in all the Dioceses. The Forum members in Kurunegala shared their views on the challenges faced in working for religious harmony. Mr Aron also held discussions with the Director and staff of Caritas Kurunegala Janasetha on the subject of Food Security programs implemented in that region, and later he had the opportunity to view the World Food Day Exhibition organized by Caritas Kurunegala in collaboration with the Provincial Department of Agriculture of the North Western Province.
In Adithyamalai, Batticaloa the Director and staff of Caritas Batticaloa EHED met Mr Aron for discussions about the Food Security project. Special emphasis was placed on the issues of water scarcity in this area, not only for drinking but also for home gardening which helps to enhance food security.
Ganthiriyagama and Ussana villages were the places of visit for Mr Aron in Anuradhapura where he was joined by two Caritas Norway Interns working in Sri Lanka. A distribution of perennial plants and seeds to the villagers of Ussana for use as future inputs for their Domestic Economic Units was one of the activities engaged in by the visitors. In Ganthiriyagama, they learnt that there is s strong sense of food security among the residents who have the benefit of consuming healthy, non-contaminated food grown by them. Their home garden projects have helped to not only foster family unity and social harmony but there is also a viable savings and credit scheme which has been established and strengthened.
In Jaffna, too, he held discussions with the Director and staff of Caritas Jaffna HUDEC regarding various aspects of the interreligious movement. He witnessed one of the language learning classes in progress while also taking the opportunity to visit some refugee welfare centres as well as a few houses built by Caritas Australia for resettled families. He also called at the NEFAD Fishnet Factory initiated by HUDEC as a livelihood project which benefits many war widows.
The Interreligious Forum in Kilinochchi met Mr Aron at the Kandasamy Hindu Temple and briefed him on the efforts taken by them to build harmonious relationships among the various religious groups. They also pointed out that the language learning classes are being continued, with much interest being shown by the participants in spite of the distances some of them have to travel to attend these lessons. It was also pointed out that there is the need to work closely with the youth since these young people are living in the midst of many social evils, violence and crime and are prone to such negative influences.