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Sri Lanka: The Future In The Hand Of Young Leaders

Sri Lanka Unites (SLU) is a youth reconciliation movement led by a team of young professionals drawn from different ethnicities and religions in Sri Lanka who are working towards reconciliation, peace, change and are kindling hope. Since 2009 it has built many networks of clubs in schools by visiting them. It has organized workshops, leadership conferences and many more events across the country (see Global Voices report).

The 26 year long civil war has damaged inter-ethnic relationships, especially between the Sinhala majority and Sri Lankan Tamil minority. SLU is a non-political initiative, which is trying to show that reconciliation between these most divided ethnic groups can be possible.

Anita Amendra writes about the movement:

Sri Lanka Unites identifies today’s priority as: ‘How will the youth engage in reshaping the next decades and give leadership to positive changes that must take place?’

The committee and members are young adults, aged 18-30, working on a largely voluntary basis, from all ethnicities and religions. One pursuit is, ‘to motivate young leaders in schools across the country to understand the need for reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka, and empower them to undertake and give leadership to inter-community reconciliation initiatives in their localities'.

This year SLU's fourth Future Leaders conference took place in Vaddukkoddai, Jaffna from August 28 to September 1. Gnana Moonesinghe was present in that conference and writes:

Who will not be proud when after all the turmoil “a new generation dares to unite the nation”, in an environment where the leaders have become fractious and complacent and are therefore unable to bring sustainable peace to the country.

The young leaders have taken the initiative to provide leadership to bring together over 500 students in the age group of 15 – 18 years from all over the country and to groom them to be the stakeholders of the vision of Sri Lanka Unites.

For People like Yas at Gecko Sri Lanka the conference was a unique opportunity to connect with the people of Sri Lanka in all their diversity. “This in itself I feel has brought me closer to the country as a whole,” comments the blogger. You can see photos of the conference here.

Prashan De Visser, the President of Sri Lanka Unites, writes in a guest post:

Members of our youth movement that number well over 10,000 representing over 70 chapters (including 6 outside Sri Lanka) continue to make an impact. We have a firm conviction that reconciliation is not solely a government mandate but equally a civilian endeavor. With over 70% of Sri Lankan youths without connections or contact with people outside their own ethnic group, we have seen over a thousand leaders participate in the Future Leaders’ Conference and draw their communities closer together, breaking generations of prejudice and misconceptions.

The School Relations tour on October 7, 2012. Image courtesy Sri Lanka Unites

The Sri Lanka Unites team is currently on a Sri Lanka Road Trip visiting schools nationwide. You can read the stories of the trip in Sri Lanka Unites blog. An example is this entry on Day Nine fetauring the recations of their first visit to Keppapillavu, a resettlement camp in Mullativu:

Show You Care Campaign Poster

The tragedy and suffering we witnessed is truly distressing and we're all deeply moved. [..] They have gone through so much and the stories they tell have you inspired by their moral strength. [..] In the words of Windya; “I'd seen and heard about situations like this on TV but this was the first time I'd seen something this grave in real life. If I ever had to live like that, I don't know what I would've done…”

Sri Lanka Unites’ upcoming campaign is the ‘S.H.O.W You Care: Stop Harassment Against Women’ campaign, which is aimed to build trust between communities. The event will feature awareness campaign with a forum theatre and some musical performances. It began as a mobile campaign in a bus in mid June, and it has transformed into an island-wide campaign to eliminate harassment from Sri Lanka as a whole.

Please follow Sri Lanka Unites on its BlogTwitterFacebook pageFlickr and YouTube channel.

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