Sri Lanka says Easter attacks rejuvenated religious harmony

After the Easter Sunday attacks that killed over 250 people and injured hundreds in April in Sri Lanka, there was a rejuvenation of interfaith harmony in the country, a senior Sri Lankan official told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.

“The church was the first to say ‘don’t harm anybody for what happened to us.’ Then Buddhist clergy came on-board. The most striking thing was that we got tremendous support from the Muslim community to ensure that there was no recurrence of such incidents. So as a result there has been a rejuvenation of interfaith amity,” Ravinatha P Aryasinha, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, said in an exclusive interview during his official visit to Abu Dhabi.

He said Muslim community helped the security forces to eliminate the terror network after the incidents.

“Within four days we got the whole network eliminated. Either they killed themselves or they were killed in the raids [conducted by security forces] in eastern part of the country. We also picked up the next layer of their leadership,” he revealed.

That was possible only because of the Muslim community’s support, Aryasinha said.

Sri Lanka’s security forces, hardened after three-decade long fight with terrorism, also played a crucial role in helping the country bounce back to normal quickly after the incidents, said the official who is the top bureaucrat at the Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Given the strong bonds between both peoples, the UAE’s propagation of moderate Islam will definitely have a further positive impact on Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, Aryasinha noted.

“Therefore, these bonds should be there,” he emphasised.

Of an estimated more than one million Sri Lankans living in the Middle East, around 300,000 in the UAE have a special privilege, he said.

“Almost 100,000 of them [in the UAE] are doing white-collar jobs; most of them have climbed their career ladder after reaching the UAE,” the official explained.

This improvement in their career was possible thanks to the UAE’s policy of helping the migrant workers to improve their skills during their stay in the country, he said.

Sri Lanka’s high literacy rate [92 percent] has also helped their progress, facilitated by the UAE’s flexible job market.

“Therefore, when I spoke to some Sri Lankans who have been living here for many years, they spoke very highly about the UAE’s leaders, with the same love and affection they had for their Sri Lankan leaders,” Aryasinha explained.

Sri Lanka’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai will also help further improve the relations, said Aryasinha who visited the proposed site of Sri Lankan pavilion at the Expo during his visit to the UAE.

The construction of the pavilion will start soon, he revealed.

As Sri Lanka and the UAE are celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year, we should explore all opportunities,” Aryasinha concluded.