Tuesday, January 26, 2010

People from all religions pray for an end to election violence

Some 3,000 people from all religious backgrounds met yesterday afternoon at Colombo’s Vihara Maha Devi Uddayanaya Park to pray jointly for a peaceful presidential election and a peaceful future for the country tomorrow and thereafter.

In the meantime, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has officially endorsed the candidacy of Sarath Fonseka.

The Sarvodaya Movement of Sri Lanka organised the meeting around the theme of ‘Let us spread compassion to all’. Presided by the movement’s founder, Dr A.T. Ariyratne, the meeting lasted from 3 pm to 5 pm.

Along with their respective religious leaders, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims from a number of the capital’s district came to meditate and pray together. Many wore white. At the end of the ceremony, people lit a mati-pahan or clay lamp and sang peace songs, holding the right hand on their chest.

For Sarvodaya members, this kind of prayer service favours the development of “a peaceful mindset” and contributes to “a peaceful society” by harnessing everyone’s “spiritual energy”.

In his address, a Buddhist religious leader, Madoluwawe Sobhitha Thero, condemned every form of violence and criticised those who use it for political purposes.

Buddhist monk Handapangoda Ginasiri Thero also slammed widespread violence and corruption.

Fr Mervyn Fernando, a Catholic priest and founder of the Subhodi Integral Education Centre, said that everyone should get involved in building peace, which God gave us.

“Let us call on God to grant us the wisdom to defeat all forms of violence and abuses related to the elections,” he said. May He help us choose a “suitable leader for our country”.

Sarvodaya leader Ariyaratne said his association is planning similar events across the country until 29 January to change people’s mind so that everyone can hope for a peaceful election.

On the eve of the election, former President and eminent member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Chandrika Kumaratunga officially endorsed the leading opposition candidate, General Sarath Fonseka.

Opposition parties have accused the ruling party of planning a coup should it lose the election.

Chandrapala Liyanage, a spokesperson for outgoing President Mahinda Rajapakse, dismissed the charge as “baseless”.

So far, four people have died in campaign-related violence; hundreds more have been injured. Tensions remain very high.

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