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Sri Lanka: Working Towards Uniting the Nation

The 26 year long civil war in Sri Lanka has left many scars and it is an uphill task to diffuse all the tensions in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation and start the reconciliation to unite people.

Sri Lanka has long been divided along ethnic lines. The children of the war grew up with stereotypes, hatred and division between communities; suspicion and misunderstanding still keep them from bridging the divide. One organization named Sri Lanka Unites is engaging Sri Lankan youth to build good leadership with hope and reconciliation who will unite the nation one day. From their website:

Our vision is, “to unite the youth of all ethnic and religious groups across Sri Lanka in a movement that promotes reconciliation, creating a peaceful and prosperous nation for future generations”. Our mission “To be a symbol for, and an example of, the powerful potential of united Sri Lankans to work towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity”.

Sri Lanka Unites started its operation in 2009, building network of clubs in schools across the country. Its team regularly visits schools, organizes workshops, leadership conferences and many more events across the country.

Reconciliation is a sensitive issue and while numerous activists and diplomats are debating on this in discussion tables and activists are ranting about the issue in the social media, Sri Lanka Unites is actually doing something. Indrajit Samarajiva writes:

Sri Lankan unity (from the people) is the way out of our problems. [..] If I read you correct, you have a cart/horse issue. That is, Tamil grievances should be acknowledged before people accept Sri Lankan unity, preferably from the top. My offensively frank response would be, “can’t wait, let’s go”, but that’s why I’m not a diplomat.

I think Sri Lanka Unites makes the point better than me. They’re not waiting for cart or horse, they just building a united Sri Lanka now.

The blogger adds:

I’m not saying that Tamils should forget their problems. I’m saying that all Sri Lankans should help. I’m saying that I’m trying to help. I hope you’ll accept my comments in that spirit. [..]

I was watching this Sri Lanka Unites video and I think I realize what I’ve been missing in my, forgive me, haste. An apology.

This is what they suggest we say, and I mean it

“Unconditionally from the bottom of my heart, for the future of our country, whether I was part of the violence or not, I was here. If anyone from my community has hurt you. Come let us reconcile.”

The organization has also been subjected to criticism, which had been defended by Prashan De Visser, the President of Sri Lanka Unites.

On the 'School Relationship Tour' across Sri Lanka. Image courtesy Sri Lanka Unites.

On the 'School Relationship Tour' across Sri Lanka. Image courtesy Sri Lanka Unites.

Sri Lanka Unites has been arranging Future Leaders Conference every year and read about this year's (3rd) conference in their blog. This month Sri Lanka Unites has started their school relation road trip and regular updates are being posted in their blog. Here is a summary of the first leg of road trip (check out photos from here & here):

On the 9th of October, we left Colombo at 4p.m. heading to Kandy. At Kandy we were hosted by the Hindu Cultural Center. [..] In Kandy, we visited Trinity College, who were the host of FLC season 3, and the welcome there was amazing! We also visited Hillwood Girl's College. Part of the team went to Kurunegala district where they visited Malliyadeva Model School and Royal International. On the 11th of October we had a workshop for the Kandy and Kurunegala districts at the Hindu Cultural Center hall. [..]

On the 12th of October, we went to Nuwaraeliya where we had assemblies at St. Xavier's College and Beacon Hill Academy, followed by a workshop for both the schools. It was the most interactive workshop, and the response was excellent!

We left to Kegalle on the 13th, and visited Kegalu Vidyalaya and Kegalu Balika Vidyalaya. On the 14th, part of the team left to Ratnapura where they were warmly welcomed by Dharmapala Maha Vidyalaya which is our only member school in the district. The rest of the team conducted a workshop for the Schools of Kegalle district at the Kegalu Balika Vidyalaya. St. Joseph's Convent, Kegalu Vidyalaya, Kegalu Balika Vidyalaya and a few more schools participated.

The stories of students making friends from other parts of the country are being posted in YouTube. Sri Lanka Unites has a strong presence in Social media with its Blog, Twitter, Facebook page, Flickr and YouTube channel.

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