I am happy to publish this statement by Rev Yap Kim Hao, who heads the Chen Su Lan Trust. This Singapore-based, Christian-linked charity funded an education centre in the town of Vavuniya, located in the northern part of Sri Lanka, an area that saw intense military action not long ago between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. This project is the Trust’s contribution to peace-building and reconciliation in a country that has suffered tremendously.
The official opening of the centre was held on 24 June 2010, and the photos here are from that event.
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Chen Su Lan Education Centre Official Opening June 24, 2010
On the eve of Poson Poya Day which celebrates the 2318th Anniversary of the entry of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, the Chen Su Lan Education Centre in Vavuniya was officially opened.
Special guests for the event were Mrs P M Charles (Government Agent and District Secretary), Mr S N G Nathan of the Tamil National Alliance party and the elected Mayor of Vavuniya (Chairman of the Urban Council), Brigadier Napagoda (Representing Major General Kamal Gunaratna), Police Chief Senaratne, Religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities.
Close to one hundred Singapore Buddhist pilgrims from the Maha Karuna Society included this in the itinerary of their pilgrimage led by Venerable K Gunaratana. They offered gifts to the monks, students and people in the community. More than one thousand were present and it far exceeded the expectations of the organizers.
When Venerable Gunaratana and I visited Manik Farm to offer relief supplies to the camp of the teenage soldiers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, we saw immediately the need to prepare for the re-entry of the youths to continue their education which was interrupted by the civil war. In discussing with Major General Gunaratna the proposal to set up an education centre was agreed upon.
Application was made to the Government Agent/District Secretary to offer a piece of land in the city of Vavuniya for this project. This was approved and more than half an acre of empty land was given for the construction of the Education Centre.
Chen Su Lan Trust underwrote the entire cost of the building. The building works started and within a short period of two and half months the Chen Su Lan Education Centre was officially declared open on June 24, 2010.
This project is an important one which will further the process of reconciliation after thirty years of tragic civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people. Peace must prevail and reconciliation must take place.
At the Opening Ceremony we have portrayed this dimension of reconciliation. Madam Charles is the Government Service and she is a Tamil Catholic, Mayor Charles is a member of Tamil National Alliance Party that supported Tamil Eelam, Brigadier Napagoda and Police Chief Senaratne are Sinhalese Buddhists, Singapore pilgrims are Chinese who embrace the Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism. Venerable Gunaratana is a Sinhalese Buddhist monk working in Singapore for over 15 years and committed to help the Tamils who are from Hindu, Christian, Muslim faith communities. I am a Malaysian Chinese Christian who has been working in Singapore for the past 45 years. The Chen Su Lan Trust is a Christian family philanthropic trust fund helping people of all races, religions and nationalities.
The inter-national and inter-religious factors were well symbolized. Flags of both Singapore and Sri Lanka were fluttering side by side. The two national anthems were sung at the beginning, The symbolic lamp was lit by representatives of different communities. We light the lamps to dispel the darkness of ignorance and conflict. We raise the vision of hope and peace with justice for all.
The Chen Su Lan Education Centre will ultimately belong to the people of Vavuniya. Together they will use the Centre to engage in religious dialogue for mutual understanding and respect for differences among the faith communities. Together they will educate the people and empower them in community service for peace and harmony.
It is our hope that this interfaith Centre will encourage other communities far and near to involve in the process of reconciliation and seek the welfare of society.
Signed: Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao