Peace and Unity through Religion and Sports in Sri Lanka
For two years in a row, AMDA international has organized and conducted a post conflict Peace Building program in Sri Lanka. Once again AMDA international teamed up with AMDA-Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace to organize the program. SLCRP is a national interreligious council affiliated with Religions for Peace. Consisting of senior religious leaders of Sri Lanka's major religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity - SLCRP is devoted to advancing permanent peace by fostering dialogue between communities and implementing concrete action to advance development and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
This time the program concentrated on two elements of unity, namely Sports and Religion, and thus the program was called "Peace and Unity through Religions and Sports".
The program consisted games of soccer for boys and netball for girls and a multi-faith religious program and cultural exchange program. Junior high schools students from Anuradhapura, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts representing Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian faiths from Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim community participated in the program. The program was held from Oct. 5th through 7th 2012, in Anuradhapura, an ancient archeological and historical city in the north-central province of Sri Lanka. Around 120 students, teachers and officials from 4 different schools joint hands for this program.
The program started with an inaugural ceremony of lighting traditional oil lamp by the representatives of AMDA, Ministry of language and social integration, Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace, District Govt. Agent, Ministry of Education and Sports, teachers and students. Following that, religious leaders from Hindu, Islam, Buddhist and Christian faiths delivered prayers for peace and harmony.
As for the main event of soccer and netball games all students from three different communities were gathered and separated into three different teams of mixed races and religions. This method, we found, helped to increase the communication among the kids even during the games. Not only the students but also teachers who were the referees and umpires enjoyed the mixed-team games and opened up to each other. At the end of the day everyone came out of it as winner of peace and unity. Finally, students and teachers were awarded with trophies and certificate.
Students and teachers also visited places of worships representing different faiths and learnt about each other`s believes and customs. In the evening everyone settled down to share and enjoy a vibrant cultural show of events. Students showed and shared their dance, music and drama skills on the stage. Further St. John ambulance volunteers provided the medical need and acted as student`s guides and translators.
Overall, this unique program helped students to come together as one group to create lasting friendships by understanding, appreciating, respecting and finally accepting each other and their differences.
AMDA also joined hands with Lions Club of Sri Lanka and conducted a free medical clinic in Keppitikollawe area in Anuradhapura district. Around 150 patients attended the clinic seeking primary healthcare and consultation. The clinic was conducted with the help of doctors from Lions Club of Panadura under the guidance of Local Medical administrator Dr. Palitha Pandara and AMDA-Sri Lanka president Dr. Sarath Samarage. AMDA International president Dr. Shigeru Suganami personally partook at the clinic event.
On the last day of the program, students visited some local historical sights and learnt about the history of the place. Students and teachers found the whole program productive and educational. Just before they left for their respective places, students and teachers expressed their appreciation and gratitude. All the participants left Anuradhapura hoping to meet again at a similar and unique program next year.