The election of a new Government in Sri Lanka in January 2015 that had campaigned on a platform of national reconciliation and unity has significantly decreased the number of incidents of religious violence.
The new Government has also allowed much greater space for dialogue and new initiatives from government and civil society organizations to promote interfaith and inter-ethnic harmony.
However, while the situation has undoubtedly improved, religious radicalism linger and can easily be mobilized in moments of crisis.
Through research and capacity-building activities, the project aims to equip community and national level actors to develop appropriate mechanisms and education interventions to strengthen community resilience, reduce tensions connected to religious/ethnic differences and promote a greater spirit of unity and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
“Religion shouldn’t be a weapon to destroy human rights and the values in society.”
– Young Buddhist Monk and Equitas community participant, Venerable Weliwitiya Dhamminda.
What we do
Addressing these challenges through human rights education, Equitas is committed to:
- equip community and national level actors to develop mechanisms and education interventions that:
– strengthen community resilience;
– reduce tensions connected to religious and ethnic differences;
– and promote a greater spirit of unity and reconciliation;
- engage with key ‘drivers of resilience’, including religious and community leaders, educators and youth, to enhance their capacity to withstand violent triggers;
- engage and support efforts by the Government of Sri Lanka to promote dialogue, national unity and reconciliation;
- disseminate good practices, lessons learned, research findings and capacity-building tools on a regional and national level through forums and dialogues.
Through our work in Sri Lanka:
- More than 3,000 people have been reached to reduce inter-religious tensions, generate a spirit of understanding, contribute to the promotion of religious diversity, and develop lessons for other societies experiencing similar conflict.
“For the first time in my life entered a temple, learnt about the Bible, got to know about different religious festivals. For the first time in my life, I sat with people belonging to all four religions”
– Community participant from Galle, Sep 19, 2015
“This workshop [for religious school teachers] gave us the opportunity to share our thoughts, beliefs and express ourselves with people from different faiths. We hope we can bring this to a national level to bring about peace. The human rights values are important. They are the pillars for building the nation.”
– Hindu School Principal, Sep 27, 2015
“During the Ramadan, the Islam school for the first time has invited three other Sunday schools’ children for other religious groups. A Hindu Sunday school principal said that such a thing had not happened in the past. This is a direct impact of the program”
– Jegan Prakash, Equitas program participant from Colombo, 2016.
- Community Action: participants (from civil society organizations and government) to the Human Rights Education for Children are putting into practice what they have learned in the workshop. Examples of their initiatives include – a workshop for teachers on children’s rights and the use of the Play It Fair! Toolkit, raising children’s awareness of human rights values through games and knowledge transfer to colleagues on children’s rights.
- Inter-Religious Conflict in Four Districts of Sri Lanka (2018). This study uses qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with women and men from the districts of Mannar, Jaffna, Ampara, and Matara in Sri Lanka to unpack the intersecting domains of contestation among Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, and the conditions that fuel conflict. It adopts a localised and context-specific lens to the analysis of inter-religious conflict as well as conflict resolution mechanisms with a focus on the role of women’s participation. Available in ENGLISH.
- Conflict mitigation using a human rights-based approach: A guide for taking action to mitigate religious and ethnic conflict (2018). This guide is a practical tool to support community and national level actors in their conflict mitigation work. It provides a step-by-step process on how to take action to mitigate religious and ethnic conflict using a human rights-based approach. Available in ENGLISH.
- The Chronic and the Entrenched: Ethno-Religious Violence in Sri Lanka (2018). This publication delves into the political transition of 2015 that promised an end to ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka. The study examines how ethno-religious violence has persisted , particularly in its chronic form and looks at some of the factors that entrench and sustain such forms of violence. The auther concludes by arguing for a cultural transformation that will confront the root cause of this violence. Available in ENGLISH and TAMIL
- The Chronic and the Acute: Post-War Religious Violence in Sri Lanka (2015). This publication aims to contribute to the social dialogue on freedom of religion and belief and build a spirit of tolerance and empathy both in Sri Lanka, and in other societies experiencing similar conflict. Available in ENGLISH, TAMIL and SINHALA.
- Promoting religious harmony in Sri Lanka: Lessons Learned and Good Practices (2016), featuring the lessons learned and good practices for engaging various actors during the implementation of our project “Promoting religious harmony in Sri Lanka” which involved decisions makers, religious groups, government officials, members of civil society organizations, children and youth, teachers and other stakeholders. Available in ENGLISH, TAMIL and SINHALA.
Regional Forum and Workshop in Colombo from September 10 – 15, 2018
Equitas and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) are hosting a Forum on Freedom of Religion in Divided Societies of Asia and a Capacity Building Workshop on Applying a Human Rights-Based Approach to Conflict Mitigation, bringing together scholars, representatives of civil society organizations, and parliamentarians to reflect on and analyze the state of freedom of religion and to increase the capacity of community leaders and civil society organizations to promote ethno-religious harmony in communities and reduce potential for conflict.
- Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion recognized Equitas’ work in Sri Lanka at the United Nations in September 2016.
- Former Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga participated in the launch of our study on religious violence in Sri Lanka, in December 2015.
The only path is dialogue and power-sharing in an inclusionist state, the former President recommended.
Equitas works in Sri Lanka with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
Our current project is undertaken with the support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada (GAC).