The third annual Social Integration Week commenced on Monday under the theme “National Unity through Social Integration” and will continue until July 20.
The Social Integration Week is an annual event that is organised by Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration and has is being held for the third consecutive year. During this week, many activities will take place with the aim of integrating marginalised communities and providing them with opportunities to socialise with other communities.
“The aim of the Social Integration Week is to re-socialise the people who are left out in the society, including people who face discriminations due to disabilities, caste differences, religious differences, lack of education and economic inequalities,” said Media Secretary of the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration Mr. M. Harishchandra. “It is understood that social integration cannot be achieved over a week. However, our aim of holding such a programme is to draw attention of the nation towards the people who are marginalised.”
The inauguration ceremony of Social Integration Week 2014 takes place in Polonnaruwa today during which an expedition tour commences for children and youth in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa where ancient ruins depict the historical close relationship between Tamil and Sinhala communities.
During this week, the Ministry will also initiate operations at its provincial centres serving the Northern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. The one in the North is located in Kilinochchi.
“We are setting up Provincial Centres of Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration as a measure to decentralise the social integration task mandated to the Ministry,” Mr. Harishchandra said. “We have chosen unique locations with indigenous communities for this purpose. Plans are underway to set up a Provincial Centre in the Eastern Province to serve the Muslim community in the East.”
As a measure to reduce educational inequality, organisers have made arrangements to conduct Grade 5 Scholarship seminars in all 25 districts during this week. Students who are facing economic hardships are chosen for this programme, and sessions will be facilitated in Sinhala and Tamil languages by leading teachers in the country.
On June 19, the National Kite Festival will take place in the coastal areas of the country. The main event will be held at Galle Face, and the regional events will be held in Mullaitivu, Arugam Bay, Hambantota, Galle, Jaffna and Batticaloa.
“This will not be a just another kite festival,” said Mr. Harishchandra. “Musical events, potluck food stalls [and] language stalls will be included as additional events. People will share their native foods with other communities, promoting harmony in the country.”
The Stakeholders Conference on Social Integration and the launch of the National Action Plan for Social Integration will be held on July 20 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo. According to Mr. Harishchandra, the conference will aim to gather ideas of civil society, religious organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in order to develop a common agenda to achieve social integration in a more fruitful manner.
Various community development projects are also scheduled throughout the week at the village level where people from different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds will participate to develop their communities in harmony.
The Social Integration Week is carried out under Recommendation 9.276 of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which is to encourage the dissemination of information that highlight commonalities and mutual understanding between communities, especially for the benefit of the younger generation.