PRESS RELEASE: Oslo Peace Conference, South Asia

15 04 2008

CONFERENCE ON SOUTH ASIAN CONFLICTS UNDERLINES SPIRITUALITY AND PEACE AS THE WAYS FORWARD

Oslo, Norway. April 12, 2008: Bringing together top leaders, senior diplomats and experts from diverse backgrounds, a historic Conference on Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia concluded in the “peace capital” of the world today, calling for peaceful resolution of the unsettled issues and highlighting “spirituality” as a way forward.
The two-day Conference, which focused on the internal armed conflicts in South Asian nations of India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal, was organized by ‘The Art of Living Foundation’ of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and discussed possible solutions and ways and means to achieve them. Another aim of the initiative was to highlight the need to promote dialogue and evolve a consensus among the stakeholders to deal with the problems, which have together taken millions of lives in the last few decades.
Norway’s Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Sri Lanka Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Members of European Parliament Erika Mann and Nirj Deva and Aud Kvalbein, Deputy Mayor of Oslo were some of the prominent European speakers in the conference.
From Asia, Ramvichar Nitam, Home Minister of the Naxal insurgency-affected state of of Chhattisgarh and MDMK chief Vaiko represented India, while Sri Lankan perspective was presented by Arumugham Thondaman, Minister for Youth Empowerment and Socio-Economic Development ,Jayalath Jayawardhne, MP,Dr Rajiv Wijesinghe( Gen Secy. of the Peace Secretariat) and prominent Buddhist Monks Dr. Brahmanawatte Seevali Nayaka Thero, Deputy Secretary General, Sri Lanka Amarapura Mahanikaya and Dr Maduluvave Sobitha Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of Nagavihara Kotte,. Besides, renowned experts, academics and members of The Art of Living Foundation from various nations also participated in the unique initiative.
“It is a humongous task to find harmony in diversity. We must continue to pursue the path of peace. Conflicts are bound to come and we have to make them a stepping stone to achieve the ultimate goal of global peace,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the main motivation behind the initiative, said.

”Whether it is inter-religious conflict, or intra-religious conflict, or it is a conflict between communist or capitalist ideology, it all starts in the minds of people, in the hearts of people. When such conflict begins, they shut themselves for reasoning, prejudice overtakes, and communication goes haywire. It’s here we need to build the trust among the communities. Spiritual leaders, religious leaders, can play a bigger role in this” Sri Sri added.

“Through this conference, we appeal to Sri Lankan government, Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), Buddhist monks in China, Chinese government, Myanmar regime…everyone for peace and restraint, and to have a preference for coming to the table for resolution of issues,” the globally known Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in his concluding remarks.
During the course of the conference, a host of subjects such as ‘the role of civil society and the governments in conflict resolution’,’role of media in the conflict resolution’ and ‘Peace building in South Asia’ were discussed in detail. Separately, workshops on the Naxal insurgency problem in India, ethic Tamil strife in Sri Lanka and Burma were also conducted.
Deliberating upon the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, top Norwegian peace negotiator Jon Hanssen-Bauer said: “The common understanding between the government and the LTTE has been that talks are aimed at finding a political solution that are acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka. For Norway, any solution endorsed by the Sri Lankan people is of course acceptable to us.”
Participants also expressed concern at the existing situation in Sri Lanka . Mr Thondaman, minister from Sri Lanka said,”I am strongly of the opinion that there is no military solution. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been preaching the attainment of inner peace for years, through yoga, meditation and stress relief. An individual at peace, within himself, he obviously influences the inner peace of other individuals around him.”
Buddhist Master Seevali Nayaka Thero said that today there is so much conflict happening and this is the time to think for both the Government and LTTE about how many lives are being lost because of this war. “In any place, in any country, only by war you cannot solve the problems. Only peace talks, and reconciliation, can solve the problem,” he added.
MDMK leader Vaiko speaking about Sri Lanka said,”a whole ancient race is about to be wiped out. I would appeal to the European Union to put pressure on the Sinhalese government to end its military offensive on the LTTE, ” ”Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has done a commendable job by convening this conference of this scale” he added.
Meanwhile, the conference also zeroed down on the problem of ‘Naxalism’, which has been identified as “the single largest threat to the internal security of the country” by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the past. The ultra-Left Naxal movement, which started in late 60s, today affects one-third of the total districts of India and has been responsible for killings of thousands of people in states battling the menace.
Explaining the government’s perspective, Home Minister of Chhattisgarh Ramvichar Nitam said that the problem also had a serious socio-economic aspect to it. He outlined various steps taken by the state government to bring the Naxal youth into the mainstream and counter the insurgency militarily.
On its part, the Art of Living Foundation has also taken a lot of initiative in educating youth in the affected districts about the importance of spirituality. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also persuaded the Naxalites for dialogue, and called upon them to give up violent means. Nirj Deva, Member of European Parliament, who conducted the workshop on Naxalism, said that he would take up the issue with fellow Parliamentarians and work towards increasing awareness and action in this regard.
Among other prominent participants were Khin Maung Win, Deputy Executive Director, Democratic Voice of Burma, Francois Gautier, Editor-in-chief, La Revue de I’lnde, Brahma Chellaney, Centre for Policy Research, India, Wasim Zaman, Director, CST for South and West Asia, United Nations Populations Fund and Sashi Raj Pandey from Nepal.
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17 04 2008
Akinogal

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