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This article was published 18/5/2019 (284 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Reconciliation and peace are possible and needed, especially among those from a wounded country such as Sri Lanka, Archbishop Richard Gagnon told a gathering of Winnipeg’s Sri Lanka community members Saturday at an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of peace in that island country.
That peace, which came after three decades of bloody and deadly conflict, was marred April 21 (Easter Sunday) by acts of terrorism that killed at least 257 people and injured 496 others. The attacks, which authorities said were carried out by Islamic extremists, were a series of co-ordinated bombings targeting Christian worshippers at three churches and hit four hotels in the capital city, Colombo.
The event, hosted by the Friends of Sri Lanka-Canada group and held at the Manitoba Club, also included a lecture by University of Winnipeg Prof. Emma Alexander who has a PhD in South Asian history.
Winnipeg’s Sri Lankan community totals about 2,500.
"I think inherently Sri Lanka, composed of the various cultural groups, is a very traditional society in terms of their lifestyle and their faith and I would imagine that’s a very, very important factor in their lives and helps them stay the course and to hope for the future," Gagnon, of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, said in an interview prior to his speech.
The crowd included lawyer and human rights expert David Matas, Welcome Place executive director Rita Chahal, immigration lawyer Bashir Khan, MLA Andrew Smith (Southdale) and city Ccoun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West)
In his address, Gagnon told a story of a grandfather speaking to a grandchild about two fighting wolves, who symbolize the battle within us. One wolf was good, with characteristics of kindness and joy, and the other wolf was evil, filled with hate and anger. The grandchild asks which wolf wins in this battle?
"The one you feed," Gagnon said. "I think that happens on a personal level as well as on the level of societies. Governments, politicians, their goal is justice and order in society. Faith groups, cultural groups make a contribution in terms of healing to fine-tune justice. The Sri Lankan people are a traditional people. There’s much faith there, different religious groups. So hopefully, what is best in their traditions will also help that engagement and that dialogue lead to the goal of becoming friends again, of being reconciled to each other, in the deepest sense of that term."
Hasaka Ratnamalala, a lawyer who is president of the Friends of Sri Lanka, said the organization was honoured to have Gagnon support solidarity among Sri Lankans living in Winnipeg.
"The bombings on the same day in Sri Lanka, that’s the main reason why we asked the Reverend Father for this event; for his peaceful words to sooth the Sri Lanka community," Ratnamalala said. "Most of the Catholic (Sri Lankans) here in Winnipeg are from the same area when the bombs went off. Some of them lost their friends.
"It is an honour to us to have the Archbishop here because it is recognition of us as a community."
Sri Lanka’s three decades of conflict officially ended on May 18, 2009.
"The people of Sri Lanka have a great wish for peace and harmony to be sustainable and everlasting for the benefit of all in that country," the event’s master of ceremonies, Kusum Weerathunga, told the crowd.
"Where there is hatred, peace cannot prosper. In fact, hatred is the driving force for almost every evil human act, such as bloodshed, discrimination and more. Hatred is not an inherent fact in human life. Nobody is born with hatred.
"As Nelson Mandela put in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, no one is born hating another person because of the colour of the skin or background or religion. People must learn to hate. If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
Weerathunga, who was a radio journalist when she lived in Sri Lanka, travels to Sri Lanka each year to visit her mother, brother and other friends and family. She lost friends in the Easter Sunday attacks — a couple with a teenaged daughter. The couple was killed while their daughter survived but lost an ear.
Updated on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 11:21 PM CDT: Edited