May 18, Colombo: The National Peace Council, an independent and nonpartisan organization working towards peace in Sri Lanka, has held a one-week training program on conflict transformation for peace workers in Colombo under its Religions to Reconcile project.
The 26-month project, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented with a Jordan-based partner organization, Generations For Peace, began in October 2016, targeting the districts of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Puttalam, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Matara and Ampara.
The project focuses on strengthening community networks mentored by religious leaders and engaging them in building consensus for a Transitional Justice (TJ) process and helping communities evolve a pluralistic national identity.
The project is based on strengthening inter religious people-to-people community engagement for reconciliation and social cohesion in Sri Lanka.
During the workshop the participants were trained on conflict, peace and peace building, conflict analysis, theory of change, sports and arts for peace, and facilitation roles, techniques and methodologies.
Speaking at the workshop, NPC Executive Director Jehan Perera said the training was being held at a time when there was a slowdown in the country's reconciliation process and very few people were working for national harmony, integration and peace.
"You have learnt new skills to take difficult messages to diverse groups of people including women, journalists, youth, government workers and the disabled," he told the peace workers. "You have to work with them to enhance ties among the communities."
He said that civil society had a duty to put pressure on the government to move forward and use the window of opportunity to bring about sustainable peace and unity. It would be a long journey ahead.
USAID's Office Director of Program and Support, Elizabeth Davnie-Easton said lasting peace required the support of grassroots communities to succeed, and this support could be garnered through people-to-people reconciliation programs that bring together people of different backgrounds to address issues, reconcile difference and promote trust and understanding.
"The NPC-established District Inter Religious Committees are the grassroots center of easing tensions among multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities, building bridges, and coming together to solve common social issues," she said.