A million voices for peace
Dawn of the New Year with renewed hope for peace and
As the New Year heralded with the chanting and blessings of the
religious leaders and thousands of peace-loving population in almost
every part of the country from metros to the far-flung hamlets, a
glimmer of hope for peace and prosperity hung in the rather cold air of
However, it is a time that the nation should take stock of the
affairs of the past year as each and every individual make New Year
resolutions, it is pertinent to ponder whether the prayers alone had
answered the renewed calls by people of every faith, or the peace
constituency that has been painstakingly built over the years, bore
fruits and that time was ripe for the silent majority to make a wake up
call to their local leaders that they are against war in general and
Tamil militancy in particular.
At last, the peace-loving silent majority in the war -torn areas such
as Mannar has joined with their counterparts in the South in an
island-wide signature campaign and a petition for peace, justice and
Spearheaded by the CSR (Centre for Society and Religion) and under
the guidance of social justice crusader Father Tissa Balasuriya, the
campaign received a positive response, particularly from war-torn Mannar
reaffirming the truth that the silent majority is against the Tamil
The petition among other things emphasized the need to distinguish
between the Tamil militancy, the LTTE and its demands for a separate
state of Eelam and the political, economic and cultural grievances of
the Tamil people of the North East.
Father Tissa Balasuriya
As the CSR urged, all the churches launched the campaign during
midnight mass on New Years eve and a peace petition was signed at the
altar by eight people including the celebrant after the sermon and the
congregation was called upon to sign the petition at the end of the
The petition states, "We have to distinguish two interrelated issues
by distinct questions concerning the Tamil militancy; the militancy of
the LTTE, with its demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam and the
political, economic, social and cultural grievances of the Tamil people
in the North and the East ... What is required is a peaceful,
constitutional solution with a sharing of power within one Sri Lanka.
The main obstacle for this during the past 50 years has been the
division between the two main political parties in the south, the UNP
and the SLFP. Fortunately the two parties have come together in late
2006 to arrive at a resolution of the national issue.
The meeting of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and the
work of Expert Committee can be a help for progress towards a consensus
on the constitutional issues. The population in general can and must
support this search for a Southern consensus over and above party
political interests. "
The peace petition further emphasized that the long term answer to
the problem 'has to be an understanding of the people of the majority
and the minority to live together in harmony with a constitutional and
democratic sharing of power within a united Sri Lanka'.
"Many people hear misunderstood the campaign, even the media said you
will be thought to be as if you are saying don't finish the LTTE. If
there is a Government, it has to maintain law and order. At the same
time they (Government) must take away the causes why violence takes
We must put across the idea that the majority are not against a
solution ", says Father Tissa Balasuriya who commenced the one-million
signature campaign as part of the on-going campaign to broaden the
understanding among the diverse ethnic and religious groups of the
country and to build a strong voice against militancy.
The purpose of the signature campaign is to raise awareness among
small groups of 10-15 persons who could form local concerned citizens.
Under the programme religious festivals such as Christmas, Muslim
Festival of Hadji, Poya day, Thai Pongal would be used to raise public
awareness on the issue and the Gandhian methods of non-violence will be
used to drive home the message that the pent up hatred and
misunderstanding over 50 years is nothing but a spiritual illness.
The on-going action with small groups is aimed at influencing the
local political leadership to come together to find a lasting solution
to the national question. The copies of the signatures will, personally,
be handed over to President Mahinda Rajapakse, leader of the Opposition
Ranil Wickremesinghe and international peace facilitators and
negotiators and other parties to the conflict.