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November 21, 2008

Inter-religious leaders’ conference – A Climax to Peace Initiatives


A Religious Leaders Conference which marks the culmination of a series of inter-religious peace programmes carried out by the Sarvodaya Shanthisena. The event will be held at the BMICH, Colombo, on the 25th of November 2008. Key religious leaders representing all religions practiced in Sri Lanka will be participating in the event who and 600 distinguished other religious and lay invitees will be attending this occasion. At this conference which will be held in parallel to the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. At the Conference, the direction of Sarvodaya Movement for the next 100 years will be presented and blessings from all religious leaders would be invoked.

Commemorative plaques will be awarded to clergy who contributed towards Sarvodaya Peace Initiatives across the island. Special prizes will be awarded to winners of the National Essay Competition on the theme “Building a society based on co-existence sans religious and ethnic divisions’. Students and undergraduates from a number of schools and universities island-wide took part in this competition.

Sarvodaya Shantisena Sansadaya has been implementing many programmes to promote co-existence among religious and ethnic communities of Sri Lanka during the last couple of decades, mainly with the assistance of the clergy who are unfailing leaders especially of the rural masses. Some of the initiatives undertaken in the North, East and the South include – inter-religious dialogues, inter-district youth exchange programmes, youth amity camps, inter-ethnic sport meets, publications for children on peace, harmony and co-existence.

This effort of Shantisena is to educate people and change their attitude and mindset from a war consciousness towards a consciousness for peace. Sarvodaya Shantisena has been the vehicle carrying the message of peace to the grassroots through a band of youth numbering nearly 100,000. In each Sarvodaya Service Village, Shantisena Peace Brigades have been formed and youth have been empowered through many awareness programmes such as providing training in leadership, conflict resolution, peace meditation through amity camps, peace marches, peace expeditions etc.

The religious leaders have been provided a common platform to emphasize the need to change the attitude towards violence, war and evolve a peaceful resolution. Through out history, the rapport between the clergy and laymen has been a decisive factor contributing towards a peaceful society. On this basis Shantisena has always endorsed the importance of clergy in ending violence and hatred, hence, planned the above conference.

Shantisena has held many successful amity camps that brought youth from the North and East to the South and vise versa. This exercise revealed that the exchange programmes were a first-hand experience on how people could forego their differences and forge a lasting comradeship.

This event has been mainly sponsored by Norwegian Church Aid with the collaboration of United Religious Initiative (URI) and WCRP.

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Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.