Caritas member organisations work together for peace in Sri Lanka (Caritas Internationalis)
The programme, begun in 2000, has born fruit by building relationships among Sinhala and Tamil communities at the grass-root level. Another crucial development has been the increase of inter-religious initiatives and the involvement of Buddhist monks, all made possible by the peace building programmes.
"We feel that, in the field of peace building, we may not see the impact immediately," said K. Theivendirarajah, the national coordinator of NNP, "because we believe in the process and we have to go through it in order to change the heart of the stakeholders at all levels."
Caritas Sri Lanka is currently facing large challenges from the mounting internal political instability and religious intolerance. Civil society has a great responsibility in this situation, and the National Peace Programme has already shown that the engagement of the civil sector in religious and politically driven conflict can make a large impact in the field of peace-building.
The NNP's activities include peace camps and language classes for children and youth, meetings with civil society leaders from the village to the regional level, trauma counselling services, and non-violent conflict resolution programmes. Though there are many peace programmes active in Sri Lanka today, "there are still many areas and people not yet reached by such programs and there is a need to reach out to more beneficiaries and increase the number of activities while maintaining and increasing the quality of the programs at this time," said Caritas Sri Lanka. These programmes may be the only way to move past the current "no peace, no war" situation in Sri Lanka.
The National Peace Programme has two responses to disaster: preparedness and mitigation. The best strategy is to constantly work on preventing disaster through peace and reconciliation activities. In the case of disaster, however, these peace and reconciliation activities can still serve to reduce tension between the conflicting communities and thereby reduce the impact of the disaster.
Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories.