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Nearly 100 members of Village Peace Committees and Volunteers from the Dioceses of Kandy, Mannar, Jaffna and Anuradhapura gathered at Madhu Retreat Centre on 14th and 15th July 2016 for a Day of Reconciliation hosted by Caritas Mannar Valvuthayam under the “Project to Promote Healing and Reconciliation”.
Welcoming the participants on the first day, Rev Fr M Jeyabalan, Director of Valvuthayam under whose guidance the event was arranged said that reconciliation among the communities is a vital step towards achieving a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.
A message on behalf of Rev Fr Shanthi Kumar Weliwita, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC was delivered by Mr Quintus Anthonypillai, Manager of Social Justice and Sustainable Peace of SEDEC. The message noted the importance of the bottom-up approach in peace-building where grass root initiatives will pave the way for regional and national efforts to bring the communities together for the building of sustainable peace. In this respect, the work of the Church and its social arm Caritas continues to play a key role in supplementing the role of governmental and non-governmental organization in taking forward this national endeavour.
Rev Fr Anthony Croos Xavier, Asst. Administrator of the Madhu Shrine was the Chief Guest at the inaugural ceremony which was followed by a Cultural Evening where the participants presented several items of song, dance and drama. In his keynote address, Fr Xavier highlighted the value and importance of language learning and said that if Tamils and Sinhalese could speak to each other in their own tongues, many misunderstandings that give rise to fears and suspicions could be avoided. Fr Xavier also noted that Madhu Shrine plays a significant role as a place of reconciliation since people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds gather there without any differences.
On the second day of the program, Sinhala and Tamil language sessions were conducted on the theme “Joining hearts and minds for national reconciliation”. The sessions were facilitated by Mr Aruna Shantha Nonis, Mr Anthony Jesudasan and Mr Ainslie Joseph. The group workshops which followed saw much lively discussion on the topic and the sharing of experiences by the participants. The findings of the group work indicated that there is a deep consciousness among people at grass root level about the need to build bridges of understanding and cordiality, as well as the need to acknowledge our past failures. Also evident was their appreciation of encounters such as this which provide a platform for those belonging to different communities to meet together in a spirit of fellowship and openness.