Sri Lanka and the role of religion in conflict

Easter is a highly celebrated time for Christians, however Easter Sunday was a tragic day for followers of the Christian faith in Sri Lanka after a number of churches and hotels were the targets of bombings. 359 people, including children, were killed and about 500 were left injured.

There were a total of eight explosions. Six of them went off on Sunday morning, hitting three churches and three hotels in three cities: the capital Colombo, Batticaloa, and Negombo. The other two went off in and around Colombo in the afternoon.

[image: 3 News]
This tragedy is the worst to take place since the civil war in Sri Lanka ended a decade ago.

The Prime Minister vowed to take action against those responsible. 60 people were arrested in connection to the attack.

On Monday, ISIS claimed the attacks, however evidence is yet to be found to link them to the tragedy. Interpol and the FBI joined the investigations.

The Sri Lankan government declared that Tuesday would be a national day of mourning and on Wednesday a mass funeral took place at the St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo. It was at this church that one of the bombs claimed the lives of more than 100 people which was the most destructive explosion of all that took place.

[image: Amila Gamage/The World]
There is speculation that this attack could be linked to the one in New Zealand last month. That was when 50 people were killed in a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The government minister and an ex-army chief argued that the planning of the Easter Sunday attacks may have been years in the making.

This raises the question of what role does religion play when it comes to the absence of peace?

[image: IEP]
Conflict between religious groups have caused disruption throughout the world for centuries. In fact a study by the Institute for Economics and Peace showed that religion was one of two key contributors to conflict over the years. The other was identity.

This made sense to columnist Robert Nielsen who said religion divides people into separate groups which only serves to highlight their differences.

In this regard Father Allies, the Parish Priest at St Margaret Mary in Cape Town, said that the problem lies in religion being abused and used to suit own agendas. He maintains that if one was living according to the best standard of religion there shouldn’t be violence.

So then what can be done to stop this kind of violence? And who should do it?

Imam Anas Hajjar, Head Imam of Finland Islam Community said, “Although political extremism and hate-speech have been on the rise in Europe, NGOs have a critical role in resisting and opposing this type of breakdown in respect of the laws of religious freedom, peace and harmony in the country. The best way to combat all types of extremism is knowledge and this part of the job is given to scholars and religious leaders.”

This is something done by Heavenly Culture, World Peace and Restoration of Light, HWPL, an international NGO under the United Nations Economic and Social Council, aiming to find the nature of religious values for peace building through scriptures.

[image: HWPL]
HWPL invites religious leaders to interfaith peace dialogues that have the objective of clearing up misunderstandings between religions. This platform is the “World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Office” and has been made available in 220 locations from 130 countries.

To find out more about this, visit www.established.co.za and read our latest article regarding a recent meeting between religious leaders.

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