Post-Conference Reflections

Prof. Dr. Daniel Jeyaraj

The International Harmony Conference (7–8 January 2019, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka) was timely; its meticulous planning and flawless administration impressed the participants so much that they often remained awe-struck. The appropriate choice of venue, namely Colombo, demonstrated the fitting nature of the theme: the prolonged civil wars between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils, in which the Tamils of Northern Sri Lanka suffered greatly, left behind deep wounds in the hearts and minds of all concerned people. This conference focused on the necessity of harmony and reconciliation between these polarized peoples and stressed the mediation of local Christian leaders and their congregations in actualising peace. The keynote speakers hailed from diverse backgrounds and they were known for their local and international contributions. The participants represented all mainstream church traditions in Sri Lanka. Thus, this conference provided a memorable opportunity for the meeting of minds and hearts of scholars and Christian leaders. The organising committee included members from different nationalities, languages, communities and languages. Bishop Dennis Ng paid personal attention to all details from the preparation of the conference halls to food and transport. He invested money and efforts in people, who are agents of harmony and reconciliation. He deserves our deep gratitude. Rev Dr Sheela Jeyaraj and I, on behalf of the Andrew Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity, of which Bishop Ng is the Senior Fellow, consider it a great honour to have been part of this momentous conference. 

Prof. Dr. Klaus Koschorke

The conference was a successful and impressive event. It was excellently organized, well attended both by international participants and local audience, and offered many possibilities to meet again resp. to get in touch with renowned international colleagues from various fields of expertise. It contributed significantly to mutual exchange and networking between colleagues from different countries and academic background. Thanks are due to the organizers for the hospitality which all participants enjoyed very much.

The topic of the conference has been: “Harmony and reconciliation”. I would like to stress one additional aspect which also has been underlined strongly by the “conference observer” Prof. Jayasooria who gave closing reflections on this meeting: the prophetic role of the Churches  and Christians in their respective contexts. “Reconciliation” in Christian tradition is closely connected with confession of guilt and speaking out truth. Violations of human rights, for example,  cannot be ignored when pursuing the goal of reconciliation. “Truth and reconciliation” commissions in various countries (like post Apartheid South Africa or former South American military dictatorships) stressing both points have contributed significantly to a new start in the national life after a dark past.

Specifically in Sri Lanka, Christian Churches have played an important role both in speaking out the truth in times of civil war and in the process of reconciliation after war. Representing the only religious community with a bi-ethnic constituency (comprising, differently from Buddhist and Hindus, both Singhalese and Tamil members), they repeatedly served as bridges in the search for national reconciliation.

As historian, my own contribution consisted in relating the concept of a “polycentric history of World Christianity” to the challenge of contributing to a new awareness of Christian globality based on the equality of and interaction between different traditions and actors.

Prof.Dr. Darrell Jackson

The International Harmony Conference, held appropriately the capital in Sri Lanka, Colombo, was a wonderful opportunity for invited international scholars to engage with local Sri Lankan Christian leaders around important themes relating to harmony and reconciliation.

The spirit in which the Conference was planned and delivered was an excellent example of the Conference theme in action. Our hosts demonstrated a gracious and caring attitude that was apparent in the attention to detail in the programme.

The highlights of the Conference, other than the outstanding papers brought by scholars, were the formal dinner with invited guests, the Conference booklets that were of a very high quality, the warmth and generosity of the Conference hosts, and all transportation arrangements.

I was delighted and honoured to have been invited to this International Conference and feel that for the recipient of the Award, it would have been seen as an important recognition of concrete efforts taken to address civil unrest and conflict in Sri Lanka in the final decades of the late twentieth century and into this current century.

The Conference organisers, Professor Bishop Dennis Ng and his team are to be heartily congratulated for their genuine efforts to promote harmony and reconciliation.