|Saturday, 14 August 2004|
Water, development and peace
The Most Venerable Udagama Sri Buddharakkitha, Mahanayake Thera of Asgiriya declared on August 6, "for the poor hunger, not religion is the major problem - steps should be taken to eliminate poverty to prevent religious conversions."
This forthright statement embodies and reiterates the major objectives of the Mahanayakes Peace and Development Trust:
* To construct and repair rain-fed water tanks for rice and other agricultural production.
* To create employment opportunities through productive manufacturing industry.
* To assist in stabilizing Sri Lanka's economic infrastructure.
The Mahanayakes Peace and Development Trust whose 'core' objective is peace through people development is looking forward to the support and commitment of the Japanese Buddhist brotherhood to commence the rebuilding of the destroyed rain-fed water tanks initially in the conflict areas of the North and North-East and border villages and refugee camp areas for all three communities - Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim.
The rebuilding of the rain-fed water tanks and the economic benefits for all 3 communities equitably must create the environment for ethnic harmony to develop and for religious harmony to develop. The other objectives of the Mahanayakes Peace and Development Trust are also for the communities to thrive with a quality of life and live harmoniously.
This harmony among people of all three communities living together will lead to religious harmony also.
The project for rebuilding of water tanks should not be a purely construction and engineering exercise but involve the participation of the people of the areas through their organisations and societies.
The focus must flow as follows:
1. Water is the first priority for development, and
2. There can be no lasting peace without development
3. Essential for the people to participate in the rebuilding / renovation of the water tanks and particularly the youth
4. Farmer organisations and rural societies are the source of participation of people
5. Agricultural produce mainly rice paddy, and dairy farming - milk from cattle and goats, must be a strong bond between the people and communities and even religions
6. Social development will emerge and grow as people development takes place, employment generation and social mobilisation
7. Specific examples of social development leading to peace and development are the teaching of the language of the other communities - at Daham Pasalas (Sunday religious schools), peace 'camps at which lecturers can be conducted on understanding of communities, merits of co-operation and corporate ventures and work.
Teaching of the other language at school level and translations to understand the other teachings are further steps. Another aspect can be 'sharmadana' campaigns - people doing the work themselves such as repairing roadways, repairing places of worship together, and other activities for their common benefit.
8. Drawing people in initially would be possible through confidence building - their confidence through religion as, for example, physically contributing to some development of temple, kovil or the mosque as the Mahanayakes Peace and Development Trust has done initially in Morawewa, Kinnya and Padaviya.
(International War-related Trauma and Humanitarian Intervention Trust - implementing agency for the Mahanayakes Peace and Development Trust)
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