MATARA, May 4, 2014 (AFP) – At a temple in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese south, an unusual attempt at reconciliation is underway after decades of ethnic bloodshed, even as the government warns of fresh fighting. Such mythological stories about Sri Lanka’s history are common on the island, whose Sinhalese majority can trace their roots back to giant neighbour India, which also has a large Tamil population.
Sinhalese mobs destroyed the temple during nationwide anti-Tamil riots in 1983 that claimed thousands of lives and marked an escalation in the already raging separatist war.
But years later, the main Buddhist temple in the area, Weherahena, started donating building materials to the demolished Hindu one. Buddhist monk Kegalle Rathanasara said its reconstruction showed ethnic tensions have dissolved.
“The kovil (temple) was rebuilt with the help of Buddhists,” Rathanasara told AFP in Matara. “There is only a handful of Tamil (Hindu) families here, but they live peacefully among us.”
Caretaker of the rebuilt temple, P. H. Dharmadasa, said both Sinhalese and Tamils who came to pray were welcome.
“This is a place with miraculous powers,” he said. Inside the white-washed temple, Hindu pries