The Club de Madrid has been warning for many years of the dangers of ignoring the build up of intergroup tension and even its encouragement by some in leadership positions in some parts of the world, and it is saddening the lesson has not been learnt and situations like this continue to arise.
The Shared Societies Project of the Club de Madrid has highlighted the approaches and policies which can prevent the escalation of tension and the rebuilding of social harmony and mutual respect after intergroup violence. We call these the Ten Commitments that nations and governments need to make to ensure a peaceful and prosperous shared society.
As an organization of former Presidents and Prime Ministers, the Club de Madrid knows that good leadership is vital in preventing and responding to ethnic and religious tension by showing positive inclusive leadership and respect to all citizens and the communities to which they belong. We do not say that national leaders are solely responsible, but it is incumbent on leadership to take firm action against those provoke tension and inter-group hatred and to create by word and deed an enabling environment in which local people are supported in overcoming hate speech and building positive understanding and respect between communities.
We welcome the calls for restraint and regret that have been made by leaders from all communities but this is not sufficient at a time of heightened fear and tension.
- It requires a formal statement from the government stating unequivocally its condemnation of those who use language that incite violence against people on account of their religion and acts perpetrated against individuals, communities and property on account of their religion.
- It requires resolute action to restore order and protect lives and property.
- It requires a clear commitment to apprehend and hold accountable both the instigators and perpetrators of violence. Sadly we believe that this has not happened following previous violent episodes and therefore there is a greater onus on government to demonstrate its commitment to firm action on this occasion.
- And it requires greater efforts to build positive relationships and understanding between the difference faith communities living Sri Lanka – at all levels from religious leaders to disaffected youth who are too easily drawn into violence.
We know that there are many people in Sri Lanka working to build positive inter-community relations and to restore Sri Lanka to its place as a jewel in the Indian Ocean. We call on all leaders to demonstrate their commitment to support these efforts.