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Sri Lanka’s ‘Temple to Temple Diplomacy’ Forges Cultural Bonds Across ASEAN Nations and South Korea

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with its missions in ASEAN countries and South Korea, alongside the Department of Buddhist Affairs, has unveiled the ‘Temple to Temple Diplomacy Programme.’ This groundbreaking initiative, conceived by State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya under the guidance of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, aims to bridge connections between temples and religious communities in Sri Lanka and ASEAN nations. Its mission: fostering mutual understanding, cultural exchanges, and economic ties.

This unique programme facilitates a range of activities including visits by Buddhist monks between countries, platforms for interfaith dialogue and cultural interchange, and avenues for collaborative projects.

Recently, a significant step was marked with a media conference featuring a Vietnamese delegation, a part of the ‘Temple to Temple Diplomacy Programme.’ The event, attended by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, and representatives from both Sri Lanka and Vietnam, highlighted the collaborative efforts in promoting religious and cultural diplomacy.

In its initial phase, selected Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka have received invitations from various temples in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea, and Vietnam, courtesy of Sri Lanka’s missions abroad. This exchange aims to lay the groundwork for reciprocal visits by monks from these countries to Sri Lankan temples in the forthcoming phases.

As part of this initiative, a group of Sri Lankan monks has already visited several countries, while foreign monks are anticipated to embark on visits to Sri Lankan temples in the subsequent phases. The successful completion of the first phase in Vietnam has seen reciprocal gestures, with Vietnamese monks and travel agents currently in Sri Lanka for a Buddhist pilgrimage tour, nurturing cultural and religious diplomacy between the two nations.

This ambitious programme has six primary objectives, including connecting Sri Lankan temples with ASEAN counterparts, promoting cultural and religious diversity understanding, fostering interfaith dialogue, encouraging joint initiatives for peace and harmony, enhancing diplomatic ties, and boosting sustainable tourism and economic cooperation between nations.

Notably, the initiative operates without government funding, as host temples provide accommodation and other necessities for visiting monks. Nearly 50 temples in ASEAN nations have expressed interest in hosting Sri Lankan monks under this programme, selected by the All Island Buddha Sasana Council of Sri Lanka based on their potential contributions.

Looking ahead, the Foreign Ministry plans to expand the programme to Singapore, Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia in its next phase, building upon the successful visits to South Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

With several visits already completed and more planned, the ‘Temple to Temple Diplomacy Programme’ stands poised to deepen cultural ties and foster people-to-people connections between Sri Lanka and its partner nations, notably Vietnam, in the forthcoming stages.

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