Ven. Walawahengunaweve Dhammarathana Thero speaks: Reconciliation is Everyone’s Responsibility
Chief Incumbent of Mihintale temple talked to The Catamaran about his personal experiences on working for reconciliation
Chief Incumbent of the ancient temple of Mihintale, Ven. Walawahengunaweve Dhammarathana Thero, mobilized a citizen’s movement for ethnic unity. Ven. Thero discussed with Catamaran is personal experiences on working for reconciliation
THE CATAMARAN – What was the reason to initiate the Mihinthale Jana Pavura or People’s Wall of Mihintale?
When I was studying as a novice monk in university, I saw struggle. Poverty is not new to the villages in the North Central Province. People are struggling with economy and climate. If the farmers do not receive rain in time, they face problems. This struggle is common to all people. The Muslims displaced from Mihintale during the war lived scattered. The Kandy – Jaffna A-9 highway runs in front of our temple and Tamil people travelling to Jaffna from Colombo did not look at us. There is suspicion among communities.
While I did see struggle, I also saw opportunity for change. The students of diverse communities live together on the same level, any challenge can be overcome if we have reconciliation among us. I used this experience to initiate the Mihintale People’s Wall.
Today, about 700 students from 150 families receive the support of the People’s Wall. We have no ethnic, religious and caste divisions. Members meet twice a month and discuss problems. Solution are found immediately through this dialogue. Ethnic divisions are immaterial to us. The members engage in common social work. The main aim of these programs is building mutual understanding among members. In other words, it is the beginning of reconciliation. We identify the problems of the members and direct them to find solutions through our social contacts. Then we follow-up the progress of the members.
THE CATAMARAN – How did the recent Easter Sunday attacks impact the activities of People’s Wall?
It had no impact on our activities. All members of our society, irrespective of their ethnicity and religion, help in all kinds of activities in the temple. Freedom is primary to all of these. Conflicts occur when we try to force ideology on people, and that is dangerous. It is against Buddhism.
THE CATAMARAN – What do you think we must do to prevent such a thing from occurring again?
Our closest neighbor is India and their former President, Abdul Kalam, was professional, an academic and philosopher. He was an expert in physics and nuclear technology. He also hails from the lowest strata of Indian society but is respected by the entire world. The leaders of the entire Muslim community have a responsibility to avoid incidents like Easter Sunday attacks. They must work towards reconciliation. Crimes can be prevented only by punishing criminals. We need an attitudinal change for reconciliation. It is a complicated process and I believe if tart pushing it, we will soon see the results.
This article was originally published on the catamaran.com