Norwegian Ambassador Grete Løchen, was quoted by the Embassy as saying that Norway in Sri Lanka is often accused in the media of supporting extremist groups and views. She says her government is deeply concerned about an increasingly polarized world where the narrative is more about exclusion than inclusion.
“Inter-religious dialogue offers an alternative way of implementing human rights. The civil society organisations can play a significant role to strengthen the bonds and trust between communities at the local level by providing them with societal and logistical assistance to bring the different communities together. Civil society actors are in key postions to sustain inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony,” she added.
The Ambassador said that historically different religious traditions have been misused for often political goals. She said that sometimes religion has been used as a vehicle for violent protest where states have failed to provide development and justice for their people and have blocked other channels of dissent.
“Today we often see extremist views dominating and getting at the centre stage as well as the media attention, while moderate forces are sidelined and/or often put to silence through hate speech and threats. I’m a great believer in strengthening and supporting the voices of the moderates and put them back on the centre stage. You, participating here today are representing the moderate voices. You are the one who should get our full attention,” she said.
She also noted that there are certain problems at the community level that non governmental actors cannot resolve by themselves and which need actions and coordination of government officials. She notes the the role of the police in that respect is extremely important adding that violations of communal harmony must be addressed quickly in a transparent and fair manner.
“When a person believes that his/her religion is superior, suspicion and mistrust easily appear, thus making true dialogue impossible. If there is no dialogue, just monologue, we miss the chance of understanding the other and the chances of misinterpretation is huge. Dialogue does not mean accepting or giving in to the other parties’ positions, views or actions but to see if it is possible to find a bridge, identifying the differences. Dialogue does not mean that you are compromising your core values or interests. But dialogue means that you are willing to see whether there is a common platform to work from. It means that you want to find solutions, including political solutions that can prevent human suffering and discrimination and enhance reconciliation and sustainable peace,” she added. (Colombo Gazett