Children promote peace coffee

Organised by a Catholic children's movement, twenty Sri Lankan boys - Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus and Muslims - held a coffee day for a Buddhist feast as a way of promoting multi-religious dialogue in the war-torn island nation.

UCAN reports that the boys hurried from vehicle to vehicle in Medawachchiya town offering refreshments to thousands of road-weary pilgrims passing through this farming area en route to Anuradhapura, a city sacred to Buddhists, 20 kilometres to the south.

The roads were jammed for Poson Poya, the full moon day in June, a national holiday and day of pilgrimage.

The day commemorates the arrival of Buddhism, which tradition says was brought to the island more than 2,000 years ago by Venerable Mahinda Thero, son of Emperor Asoka of India.

As vehicles moved slowly or came to a halt, Ashan Tharindu, 13, waved a flag to get their attention and offer them coffee dansal (alms).

"They are going through our village, so we told our priest we wanted to show them friendship and love," Tharindu from the Lakrivi movement told UCA News.

Lakrivi, which is an acronym for Lanka Kriyakari Virayo (Active Lankan Heroes), is the national branch of the International Movement for the Apostolate of Children, begun in France in 1929 and brought to Sri Lanka 15 years later by the late Father Marie Felix Mevel, a French Oblate priest.

In Sri Lanka the movement takes in youngsters of any religious background. It has 15,000 children aged 5 to 13.

The 12- and 13-year-old boys from the Medawachchiya parish Lakrivi group set up a stall on the main highway in front of St Joseph's Church, on the town's outskirts. Besides coffee, they offered cool water for people to wash their faces.

The Catholic presence in this predominantly Buddhist town of a little more than 40,000 people is 115 Catholic families. St Joseph's, the only parish, belongs to Anuradhapura diocese.

Oblate Fr Sarath Perera, the parish priest, affirmed that Lakrivi is open to children of any ethnicity or faith. "Our motto is A New World Through Children," he told UCA News.

On Poson Poya, he explained, a huge number of pilgrims go to Anuradhapura, and Buddhists traditionally offer free meals and drinks through dansala (alms giving centres). This gave the children the idea to offer coffee.

Asham Khan, a Muslim boy, told UCA News, "There is no doubt that this movement (Lakrivi) leads children on the correct path to live in this multi-ethnic country."

Manel Senanayake, a 65-year-old mother, observed that "there is no division among the children."

Tharindu, a Catholic, said that in a country "craving peace," it was good to see all ethnic groups come forward for a meritorious act.

Multireligious Coffee Gift Perks Up Pilgrims (UCA News, 11/7/07)

Sri Lanka president commits to "zone of peace" (CathNews, 7/6/07)
Sri Lanka priest in miracle escape (CathNews, 12/9/06)
Sri Lankan priest disappears as civilian toll mounts (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Caritas calls for pressure as Sri Lankan church bombed, schoolgirls killed (CathNews, 17/8/06)
Sri Lanka ceasefire in tatters (CathNews, 11/8/06)
Troops storm Church as Sri Lanka on brink of war (CathNews, 19/6/06)
Caritas calls for urgent mediation in Sri Lanka (CathNews, 27/4/06)

12 Jul 2007