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A group of 38 Afghan nationals who work as emerging civil society leaders and social workers in their country visited Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC on 30th November 2016 as part of a study tour funded by USAID and coordinated by Counterpart International. The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) facilitated the local arrangements for the visitors by helping them to gain exposure to individual civil society activists, informal civil society organizations, relevant public institutions, youth parliament and other organizations who work with communities in creating positive social transformation.
The theme chosen by the group for their SEDEC visit was “The role of sacred scriptures for a society, irrespective of race, caste or religion".
Having been welcomed by Rev Fr Shanthi Kumar Weliwita, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka, they were initially given a brief orientation on the work SEDEC is involved with, followed by an insight into how Caritas as a faith- based organization has been reaching out to the marginalized and vulnerable sectors in society, irrespective of ethnic or religious considerations. There was also discussion about how religions could be used to bring peace and harmony among citizens and about the initiatives Caritas has taken to bring religious leaders together to find solutions to social issues and to bring amity when tensions arose among various communities.
The emerging Afghan leaders also had the opportunity to share their own concerns and experiences with a team of Caritas Program Officers led by Mr Yu Hwa Li, Senior Executive Manager. Interesting questions were also raised, including how Caritas would respond in a situation similar to what the Afghan social workers face right now in the face of religious extremism in their country. These interactions paved the way for deep thought and reflection, both among the Caritas staff as well as among the visitors.
At the end of the meeting, the visitors acknowledged that their encounter with local counterparts was enriching, especially as they were able to gather valuable insights into how post-war societies like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are coming to terms with new realities and how the attainment of religious amity is seen as a common thread in achieving ultimate peace and reconciliation.