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."
By Paula Green, Karuna Center founder
November 2014: This is the third workshop I am facilitating with Combatants for Peace (CfP) on behalf of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. My co-facilitators this time are Ben Yeger, an Israeli CfP member living in the UK, plus Ali Nassal from Ramallah in the West Bank. Both are new colleagues to me before we begin this workshop.
We are at a particularly critical moment in the escalating violence and increasing dehumanization between Israelis and Palestinians. Especially in Jerusalem, where I stayed before the workshop, tensions are high and both populations feel their wellbeing and sense of security threatened.
Approximately 50 Israeli and Palestinian members of CfP gathered for a 3-day retreat in Beit Sahour, a small village near Bethlehem in the West Bank. The Israeli members of CfP served in the Israeli Defense Force and generally also in reserve duty following their service. Palestine members found their own ways to battle against the occupation, many landing in Israeli jails for long or short durations as a result of their protests. For all the members, some event, incident, or insight served as a wake-up call to relinquish their guns or stones. Somehow, they found their way to Combatants for Peace, where they discovered a new way to engage, this time with words and actions focused on ending the occupation rather than through weapons that cause harm and continue the cycle of violence.
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