The 40 leaders – from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islamic faiths – who assembled at the Sarvodaya Center in Sathurukondan, Batticoloa on May 22 had previously visited with 11 of their counterparts in the southwestern Sri Lankan city of Galle for four days.
The exchanges are part of the Sarvodaya Shanti Sena CC’s Inter-Religious Cooperation for Community Development and Social Empowerment project. The year-long program, sponsored by the Amherst, Massachusetts-based Karuna Center for Peace Buildingthrough a grant from USAID, is intended to help establish peace throughout Sri Lanka by providing opportunities for 80 religious leaders to interact with each other.
As part of the exchange, the religious leaders discussed their experiences performing social welfare work and their mutual desire to achieve national reconciliation for Sri Lanka.
In addition to its gatherings of religious leaders, Sarvodaya Shanti Sena has provided both inter- and intrafaith workshops, community dialogues and development projects and classes – such as small scale industrial training and instruction in the Sinhala Tamil language – as part of its Inter-Religious Cooperation program.
The group, which focuses on ending violence through youth leadership, is also currently taking part in Amity Camps, peace dialogues, district-to-district youth exchanges and pen pal programs. The Cooperation Circle is based in a network of more than 1,500 villages throughout Sri Lanka.