Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC organized a 2-day Women’s Interactive programme recently, under the project titled, “Advocacy towards Reconciliation, Unity and Good Governance in line with the LLRC Recommendations” with the funding assistance from Caritas Australia with Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)  and Misereor- Germany.  The main objective of the workshop is to create a platform for different religious and ethnic groups to come together and share their views and experiences of the pre and post war situation, paving the way for closer understanding and respect for opposite views.

A group of 39 female participants from multi-ethnic and multi-religious backgrounds and members of Village Peace Committees (VPCs), Women Rural Development Societies (WRDSs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Self Help Groups (SHGs), widows, and women from war-affected and women-headed families, volunteers and members of the Caritas staff & Coordinators joined the programme.  They came from 12 Diocesan Centres where the current project is being implemented. In addition, religious leaders of Hindu, Islam and Buddhist sects took part on the first day of the workshop.

Welcoming the participants, the Director of Caritas Sri Lanka, Rev. Fr. Shanthi  Kumar Weliwita briefed on the different characteristics of a woman particularly how aspects such as courage, endurance, empathy,  kindness and motherly care add meaning to the life of a woman.  He further said such qualities are incomparable and distinct from other creations of God.

During the sessions, the participants had the opportunity in sharing their views, experiences and expressions through artistic ways such as drama, dance and songs. They engaged in many interactive group sessions while sharing their experiences related to war situations. It was a new experience especially for the women from Sinhalese villages who had not got the first-hand and direct experiences of atrocities or tragedies of war. This paved the way for mutual and personal accounts being shared bringing healing, especially to those who had internal scars and violent emotions due to the experiences of the civil war. For some Sinhalese, the shared-dialogues paved the way for more understanding and empathy while revealing to them a different contextual crisis different from one they experienced particularly during the war.

The sessions were facilitated by Mr. Ainslie Joseph and Mr. Anthony Jesudasan.

On the second day morning, a meditation was conducted by the Director of Caritas Chilaw, Rev.Fr. Anton Wyman Croos. He focused on the roles the women have to play today and questioned whether the participants admire themselves being women mainly due to the impact of war. He also urged the participants to see the positive side of life and seek happiness.

This programme held on the 2nd and 3rd of March 2017 at the Caritas Chilaw – Janasaviya Centre, was one of the activities under the Healing and Reconciliation started in 2012. Each year the programme is designed to cater to the current needs of the post-war Sri Lanka especially, ensuring communal harmony and healing to those who faced the war.