Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Global Press Institute on Sri Lanka Unites

Youth Lead Reconciliation Efforts in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka | Global Press Institute

Youth Lead Reconciliation Efforts in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

The influence of this youth-led movement for peace and reconciliation has even spread beyond the shores of this small island nation. SLU chapters have sprung up in cities around the world among the Sri Lankan diaspora. Currently, there are SLU chapters in Melbourne, Australia; Toronto, Canada; and Washington D.C. and Orlando, United States. There are plans to begin chapters soon in Los Angeles, United States; and Wellington, New Zealand.

“Social media was the key to drawing in young people from the widespread Sri Lanka diaspora around the world,” De Visser says. “As they interacted with us on Facebook and through our website, they were inspired to join us in rebuilding one Sri Lanka.”

Dhanapala writes that their participation enhanced this year’s conference.

“The new features of foreign participation representation from the youth of the Sri Lanka diaspora and the TV coverage were excellent additions,” he writes. “The fact that the conference was held in Kandy during the Perahera was also good because it enabled all to share a common festival.”

Many of these chapters plan to organize Future Leader Conferences in their own diaspora communities around the world during the next year, encouraging reconciliation and celebration of the different cultures.

This year’s conference also drew interested observers from India, South Africa, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have returned home inspired to replicate the concepts they saw in Sri Lanka, De Visser says. Youth leaders in Kenya, for example, are planning to have a Future Leaders Conference next year.

“Kenya’s tribal tensions led to violence in the last elections, and they are very eager to do something before the next elections in 2012 to create a coalition of Kenya Unites that will work to foster reconciliation,” De Visser says.

He says SLU’s community programs have benefited several thousands of people – both the young people implementing them and the Sri Lankans benefiting from them.

Dhanapala writes that the youth movement has even inspired adults like himself.

“I have been inspired myself by the enthusiasm of the members,” he writes.

De Visser says the youth believe that change is up to them.

“We believe that we need to be the change we want to see,” De Visser says. “We can never go back to a time where you just knew someone as a Sinhalese or a Tamil. Now we know their names and faces. We can appreciate a personality. We can judge each other by our character and not by ethnicity or the region we represent. We will not let the hatred of the past control the present and destroy our future.”

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