A year ago, the Central African Republic was on the brink of disaster. Muslim militias from the north had led a 2013 coup d’état that resulted in organized killing and violence, primarily against Christian civilians. Christian militias formed and began brutal revenge attacks upon the Muslim minority, displacing hundreds of thousands of people through ethnic cleansing campaigns. Since independence, Christians and Muslims had more or less peacefully coexisted, though the Christian majority held more political power and Muslim merchants controlled lucrative trades. The country had never seen civilians massacred on the streets solely because of their religious identity, and was in a state of shock.
The Sinhala Buddhist village of Karagahawewa is a post-war community in the district of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka—an area that was heavily affected by the 26-year civil war. On three sides of the village there is thick jungle. There are 800 families living there, all Sinhala Buddhists. Although there used to be close connections between the Sinhalese in Karagahawewa and the Tamil people in neighboring communities, this changed completely as the war between Tamil separatist fighters and the Sinhala-led national army escalated. Both Sinhala and Tamil communities were driven from their homes, and the friendly relationships that had existed between them broke down.
For this story, we interviewed Naz Mohamed, who has participated frequently in the Bridging Muslim/Non-Muslim Divides event series we organize with Critical Connections. We spoke about her local interfaith work and her thoughts on what will contribute to better understanding.
"I think there are two things happening at the same time. One is that a lot more backlash is happening, and a lot more fear-mongering--and on the other hand, there's a large group of people who are consciously wanting to find out and learn and understand Islam and Muslims."
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