Sri Lanka’s demographic composition is vibrant with people from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds including: Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils, Moors, Burghers, Malays, Veddas and Kaffirs; and many faiths, including: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The relationship most damaged by war is between the Sinhala majority and Sri Lankan Tamil minority. Communities developed their own identities, defined on ethnicity, historical memory, language, religion, culture, security fears and ancestral territory. Unity between people was severely undermined by conflict.
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'.
Christin invited Prashan to visit his hometown of Vauvniya in northern Sri Lanka. The boys worked with children, where Prashan was impressed by a young Tamil boy who showed promise. He determined that this young boy should be supported and educated, while also learning that he was a cadre of a Tamil separatist group; however, above all, he was a human being. Subsequently, Christin and Prashan were on the road towards healing the bitter divisions of a fractured nation and that path inspired their hope: 'We will not let the hatred of the past control the present and destroy our future'.
SLU’s upcoming events include: a Sri Lanka Road Trip visiting schools nationwide, Champions of Change 2012, and the Fourth Annual Future Leaders Conference, 27-31 August 2012, the 'flagship event' bringing together youths from across the country. This year’s leadership conference is in Jaffna, the heart of conflict in the North, and is the first initiative of its kind regionally. Over 500 student-leaders will voluntarily mentor young people from over a hundred schools nationwide. SLU are currently collecting funds to assist children from the poorest schools to attend: it costs 10,000 rupees (£50) to sponsor a child to attend the five-day conference.
Most recently in Colombo, SLU undertook a unique project, Stop Harassment of Women (S.H.O.W.). Students, mostly male, boarded bus routes addressing passengers in three languages (Tamil, Sinhala and English) apologising to women for harassment, distributing leaflets and informing people about women’s rights and men’s responsibilities.
Project Manager, Sustainable Communities, Initiatives of Change