| The following statement issued by the National Peace Council , Colombo
( January 15, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The outcome of the recent presidential election and the visit of Pope Francis to the country consolidate the space for national reconciliation that has been newly created in post-election Sri Lanka. In his opening speech, Pope Francis stressed the need for peace and reconciliation among different faiths and said that "The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society." It is this latter aspect has not received enough attention by the Sri Lankan State. Much money has been spent to restore the physical infrastructure in the North. But “man does not live by bread alone” as the Bible says. Human beings value freedom and want to be treated as equals by the State and society.
The Pope's visit offered the people of Sri Lanka, and the different religious communities, the opportunity to show their goodwill to each other, which they did in abundant degree at the events to celebrate the occasion. It also offered the government an opportunity to demonstrate to the ethnic and religious minorities, and to the international community, that it accepts the reality of Sri Lanka being a multi ethnic and multi religious country.
Although the war is over the damage caused by the war still continues to exist in the form of displaced people still awaiting to be resettled, missing persons to be found, civilian rule to be restored and political rights to be obtained. Polarization within the country has continued. The recent presidential election campaign exacerbated this polarization due to the strong propaganda campaign by members of the former government. This negative campaign highlighted events of the war period and warned of a recurrence of such events if the incumbent was defeated. Such propaganda by the defeated political forces is likely to continue with the aim of creating social unrest.
The post-war healing that is required today, and especially in the aftermath of the Presidential Election, is not only for the people who were directly affected by the war, but also for those whose minds have been subjected to a long period of one-sided propaganda in which the ethnic minorities have been made to look as threats to the sovereignty and unity of the country and to the majority Sinhalese people. Their fears and concerns need to be addressed, as they are real to them, and one way of healing would be through the recognition of the common good and the unity of humankind. The de-militarisation that has to take place today, more than five years after the end of the war is not only of physical weapons but also of the mindset.
The Pope's visit offered the people of Sri Lanka, and the different religious communities, the opportunity to show their goodwill to each other, which they did in abundant degree at the events to celebrate the occasion. It also offered the government an opportunity to demonstrate to the ethnic and religious minorities, and to the international community, that it accepts the reality of Sri Lanka being a multi ethnic and multi religious country. From the perspective of the National Peace Council the visit of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka most importantly offered the possibility of collectively remembering the past and its costs and striving together as citizens of one country to find the way to a just and mutually acceptable political solution that ensures that such a collective tragedy will never occur again.
Governing Council : The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.