Unification News For April 1996


Sri Lanka, A Model for Peace in a Country Torn By War

by John Grhring-NYC

Sri Lanka, a nation that has been torn by the violence of terrorism and a warfare that is rooted in ethnic and religious hostility, hosted the Religious Youth Service (RYS) on March 15-17 in the rural village of Koskandawala where twenty four participants from three nations joined hands in working on repairing a school and clearing a playground.

The RYS is a peace project which aims at reconciling religious conflict through modeling interreligious cooperation and service and has recently held projects in the former battlefront of Croatia and in the volatile Republic of Haiti. The project in Sri Lanka was jointed sponsored by the International Religious Foundation, (IRF) the Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP) and the Sarvodaya movement.

This was the fourth time the RYS has had a project in Sri Lanka since September, 1992. A sign of RYS's increased development is that for the first time Hindu, Tamil's from the war-ravaged region of Jaffna participated, worked, worshipped, and sang with their Buddhist, Christian and Unification co-participants.

Sri Lanka is a very beautiful island with a religiously diverse population. Recent bombings in the city of Colombo have placed fear, anger and mistrust in the hearts of many. The RYS serves as a spiritual antidote to the hostility and tension that grips so much of the people's lives. RYS is a very realistic model that can foster the healing that is so vital for the recovery of this nation.

The Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP) helped mobilize people and financial resources to see that the RYS could be held successfully. It is a natural concern for the WFWP, whose mission is to bring about harmony and help educate youth in the values that promote true and lasting peace. The WFWP volunteers moved the hearts of the local villagers and fellow participants by the quality of their heart and service.

Among the education programs of the RYS were presentations by the Sarvodaya movement about rural self-help programs, group discussions about how different religions and individuals view questions on: " Is their Life after death ?,"and " How and when am I accountable for my actions?" In addition to a planned cultural program the participants filled the environment with spontaneous singing at the work site, on vehicles and in multiple languages.

Time was also set aside to visit a local Buddhist temple and learn more about the predominate faith of the country.

One Buddhist monk who was an RYS participate said, " This project was the most memorable time in his monastic life."To many this RYS experience provided a new vision of how peace is possible in a multireligious community. For some it served as the stimulus to make a personal commitment to peaceful change. In the words of one Sri Lankan, " The RYS should be spread all over our country, teaching through example the role of tolerance and the hope of cooperation."

To all, the role and value of religion was re-examined and viewed with a new sense, and understanding. Religion could be seen as a source of enlightenment, a treasure that should never be used as an excuse for division and distrust.

Upcoming RYS Project:

RYS Honduras: June 22-30

The project will accept speakers of Spanish and English.

Project Notes:

The RYS will begin at the capital city, Tegucigalpa. The planned work will be geared to the uplift and benefit of children. RYS will cooperate with the WFWP. Education programs will include a study of Honduras' culture, economy and spiritual heritage. The religion of the Mayans and other first peoples will be studied. A visit to the ancient Mayan city of Copan will be included.

Optional Tour: June 30-July 2 (Caribbean beaches, eco-forest tour)

Come with us and visit nature's wonders found in the rain-forest. Take time to visit, swim and snorkel on beautiful Caribbean beaches. You deserve this special adventure in Latin America.

Cost for the RYS project: $120

Cost for the optional tour: $50 (includes two meals, transport and lodging)

Participants are responsible for their travel expenses. American Airlines flies to Honduras.

For an application and more information:

RYS International
4 W. 43 St., New York NY 10036
fax: 212 869 6424 phone: 212 869 6023 ext. 429
e mail: flag@pipeline.com

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