Today in Sri Lanka, despite the end of the civil war, post-war discourses have produced fresh tensions and fault lines, and have fostered an environment in which attacks on religious and ethnic minorities have taken place with impunity.
“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 and rely on dialogue to resolve disputes;
- 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, we have focused on these main initiatives:
- Legal and social research: we have presented the study 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.
- Publication of 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.
- Human rights education for community action: Community action projects were held in the districts of Colombo, Ampara and Galle to raise awareness on a variety of human rights issues.
– In Ampara: Addressing religious conflict created by extremist groups
– In Colombo: Fostering the understanding of religious expressions and practices between children from all religious communities.
– In Galle: Strengthen the understanding between different religious communities.
- produced a Photo Journal of building religious tolerance in Mattakkuliya, Colombo, 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.
- 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).