An all island debate competition was organized by Caritas Sri Lanka –SEDEC on 9th July 2018 at the Aquinas College of Higher Studies, as one of the key activities in view of its golden jubilee celebration to be held in November 2018 under the theme, “ God’s Love for All.”

Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC has been propagating and working for peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka for decades and peace initiatives had been a major component of the overall work of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, while acting as the social arm of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. SEDEC has implemented numerous bridge-building programs among different ethnic and religious groups and recognizes the need to create a conducive environment in which peace and harmony would flourish.

In this context, in view of celebrating the 50 years of service in promoting peace and harmony, Caritas Sri Lanka, together with the 13 Diocesan Centers took the initiatives to hold this all-islandd debate competition in Sinhala and Tamil Languages to create awareness of the themes of peace, reconciliation, good governance and social justice among the schoolgoing children. The participated teams on 9th of July at Aquinas College of Higher Studies were the winners and runners-up of the diocesan level debate competitions which were held in the months of May and June 2018 under the leadership of respective Caritas Diocesan Directors.

The topics of the debate competition at the national and diocesan levels were based on the current affairs in the country such as the right to information act, child rights, effects and impacts of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. In addition, the participants also had the privilege of debating as to whether the current constitution of Sri Lanka promotes National Reconciliation or not.

One of the salient features of this debate competition was unlike in other debates, the topics and themes were given to the students prior to the competitions weeks before, assuming they would prepare themselves and comprehend the important aspects, concepts and situations of peace and reconciliation from different perspectives and angles.

At the National Competition, 14 teams from the Tamil Medium and 12 teams from the Sinhala Medium took part.

The day’s proceedings consisted of 5 rounds of competitions. After the first two rounds, the top 8 teams with the highest scores progressed to the quarterfinals. From the quarter final round onwards the knock out system was applied and the winners got through to the semi-finals.

The 104 students from 13 Diocesan Centres took part in the competition with much enthusiasm and presented heated arguments on the given topics. After a much competitive semi-final round, St. Benedict’s College Kotahena and Jaffna Hindu College from the Tamil Medium proceeded for the Finals. Meanwhile, Rajarata Maha Vidyala- Higurakgoda and Sri Sumangala National School –Wariyapola from the Sinhala Medium were adjudged the finalists.

The topic for the final round was whether the foreign investments in Sri Lanka have a positive impact on its peaceful atmosphere or vice versa.

The Chief Guest of the final event, Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickremesinghe, the Bishop of Galle was privileged to witness both the final competitions and thanked all those who supported including judges, teachers and Diocesan Directors in organizing this debate competition with a noble cause and objective in mind. He said the topics chosen by the Caritas had been quite timely and apt to the present social context, especially in raising awareness among the schoolgoing children who are going to be future leaders in the country.

Jaffna Hindu College from the Tamil Medium and Rajarata Maha Vidyala from Higurakgoda from the Sinhala Medium were crowned as the Champions respectively. Master J. Kishok of Hindu College, Jaffna in Tamil medium and Miss Sadeesha Dinanjalee  of Sri Sumangala Central College, Wariyapola in Sinhala medium lifted the best speaker trophies as they displayed power and eloquence in their speeches.

Caritas Australia, Australian Govt ( Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Misereor Germany, Caritas Norge, Norad (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC funded this noble initiative while People’s Leasing & Finance PLC in Sri Lanka sponsored a portion of the cash prizes given to the winning teams.

Both the diocesan and national level competitions were organized under the leadership and guidance of Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, Chairman, Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development and Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke, National Director, Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC.