Forum and Research Launch – Sri Lankan Civil Society Involved in the Promotion of Freedom of Religion and Beliefs

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Colombo, November 24, 2015 – Practitioners (1) and other members of civil society actively involved in the promotion of freedom of religion and beliefs are coming together on November 30th and December 1st in Colombo, Sri Lanka for the Practitioners’ Forum and the launch of a new research entitled ‘The Chronic and the Acute: Post-War Religious Violence in Sri Lanka’. The two activities are components of a 2-year project (2014-2016) led by Equitas and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) that focuses on the promotion of freedom of religion and beliefs in Sri Lanka. Participants of this project have trained in human rights education and have implemented a variety of action projects to raise awareness of the Other and promote peace and harmony between religious and ethnic groups in three communities: Ampara, Colombo, and Galle – the project’s pilot areas. “For the first time in my life I 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”, says a community participant from Galle who took part in an inter-religious / inter-cultural awareness-raising activity. To learn more about the projects, read the blog “Promoting Religious Harmony in Sri Lanka”: https://equitas.org/blog/promoting-religious-harmony-in-sri-lanka/ The activities: PRACTITIONER’S FORUM The Practitioners’ Forum on November 30th will bring together around 40 practitioners to share strategies and develop recommendations in promoting religious harmony, as well as to reinforce networking and insure ongoing collaboration among practitioners. RESEARCH LAUNCH The research Launch, on December 1st, will bring together policy makers, religious leaders and other stakeholders to discuss recommendations from our research and from fieldwork. (+info/rsvp) The new study is available online here (PDF) > It is presented in five sections. The first looks at the different types of religious attacks and the perpetrators involved. The second section examines the legal and institutional framework pertaining to religious freedom in Sri Lanka. The third section focuses on context, and provides an analysis of the socio-cultural, economic and political contexts in which religious violence took place in Sri Lanka. The final section analyses the roles that mainstream and social media have played in promoting certain discourses relating to religious freedom and religious violence. The concluding section offers key observations and recommendations pertaining to religious freedom and religious violence in this country. We present this study to contribute to the discourse and debate on freedom of religion and belief and to build a spirit of tolerance and empathy both in Sri Lanka, and in other societies experiencing similar conflict. We hope the recommendations on law enforcement, institutional strengthening, community engagement and the social media will feed into policy and practice. –  (1) In this project, practitioners are individuals and/or civil society organizations who are directly involved in the promotion of freedom of religion and belief, religious harmony, peace, and conflict resolution. +++ This project is made possible through the financial support of the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

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