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Religious Youth Service

Tamils and Sinhalese Help Tsunami Survivors on the International Day of Peace

To commemorate the International Day of Peace, the Religious Youth Service of Sri Lanka organized a service project in the area in southern Sri Lanka affected by the tsunami. Local and international participants from different religions joined together September 16-24 to help build a community center in a resettlement village for the tsunami-affected people near the coastal town of Tangalle, located in southern Sri Lanka.

Young people from the two factions responsible for the 20 years of civil war in Sri Lanka, Northern Tamils and the Southern Sinhalese, joined together in this project, which marked the United Nations' International Day of Peace, observed every year on September 21.

The project was held in Bata Atha, a remote village 225 kilometers from the capital city Colombo and eight kilometers from the southern coastal city of Tangalle. This area was the worst hit area by the tsunami in December 2004. The local government with the assistance of NGOs constructed a model village called Ruvin Gama to resettle families affected by the tsunami. But this village had no community center where families could go for health clinics and other activities. Therefore, the Religious Youth Service decided to build a community center for them.

About 40 participants joined this international project, eight from Germany, one from Thailand, 17 from southern Sri Lanka, and 14 from northern and eastern Sri Lanka. During orientation, participants learned that the goals of the project included interreligious understanding and intercultural exchange, which are worthwhile goals for every young person to strive to fulfill.

For the first four days, the participants worked together at the site with the local people. Morning meditations helped participants understand each other’s religious traditions and worship. Local participants had the opportunity to live within an international community, which promoted interreligious understanding and intercultural exchange. Working together with people of different backgrounds challenges participants to solve conflicts between races, religions and cultures and to seek the path to achieves peace.

These initial activities were followed by a leadership training program that helped participants learn more about themselves and strive to become people of good character who can build a peaceful society.

For more information about UPF's celebrations of the UN International Day of Peace, click here.
For a map of project sites, click here.

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