While ethnic tension is arguably a fundamental form of division in Sri Lanka, it is only one form of conflict. Religious and class differences have become intertwined with the ongoing rift and have complicated any rational explanation of the past 30 years. As much as the theme of ethnic reconciliation has been emphasized at the Future Leaders Conferences in years past, religious toleration and cooperation is still an important objective.
This facet becomes especially evident when viewing the student’s artwork created specifically to express their mental image of successful nation building in Sri Lanka. These pictures emphasize coexistence and a mutually beneficial relationship between the different people groups. Most pictures also possess Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic symbols tied to a united Sri Lanka to emphasize its religious heritage. The drama sessions have also revealed the fact that the religious diversity present in Sri Lanka is not lost on the students. Fortunately, they recognize the need for religious cooperation to build a stronger nation.
As conflicts around the world demonstrate, religious wars can be just as deadly as ethnic ones, and Sri Lanka must address all forms of conflict if it wishes to maximize its hidden potential. A prominent speaker at a former Future Leaders Conference once stated that Sri Lanka has had the privilege of having four of the world’s great religions live side by side for hundreds of years. This fact must remain an asset rather than become a liability for true progress to occur.
Religious and ethnic divisions are not identical in nature. Different religions have separate worldviews inherent in their belief system while ethnic identity does not necessarily carry such formidable philosophy. Even so, most religious adherents are not extremists. If the moderate majorities are allowed to speak and overcome the fringe voices that advocate violence, then real peace is possible. There is no excuse for violence or war, and coexistence is beneficial for all those who participate.
The upcoming conference will be LIVE-STREAMED for the first time! Beginning on Wednesday the 10th, you can follow it at npiptv.com
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