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Sustainability

Sri Lanka, November 2008: The government forces are fighting the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) troops in the north. The fighting causes more and more victims among the civilian population. At the same time a remarkable workshop is taking place in Anuradhapura just a little bit further south. Young people with different ethnic and religious background (Singhalese, Tamil, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus) are discussing and practicing subjects such as culture of conflict, conflict resolution and the possibilities of a peaceful life together.

The NGO FLICT (Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation) is leading the workshop and uses didactic material provided by the German “Institute for Peace Education” (ift). The material has already been used worldwide with “Peace Counts on Tour”.

In February 2007 “Peace Counts on Tour” came to Colombo. Back then the team of the ift and the Peace Counts Project organized peace education workshops in cooperation with FLICT using the material mentioned.

 

Marisa Fernando, Program Officer of FLICT, conducted the workshop in November 2008. He tells us about his expierences. Photos by Sujeewa de Silva:

The sounds of laughter and chatter ring out across the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Hotel Miridiya in Anuradapura as a group of persons engage in various games.  Only a closer inspection reveals that there are Sinhalese, Tamil, Buddhist, Christians and Hindus. There are mostly young girls and boys and a few who are young at heart. A group of young Tamil people have been going through several trainings around peace building in Mannar, but have never met Sinhalese youth involved in peace building. The youth group in Anuradhapura have however travelled to various parts of the country and met different groups of people but have never travelled to and interacted with persons from Mannar which is geographically not so far away from them. 

A special request was made to FLICT to facilitate an exchange and interaction between these groups.  It was decided that a teambuilding workshop together with the Peace Counts exhibition and worksheets would be ideal activities for them. The first afternoon was devoted for them to get to know each other, to play team games and to deal with the initial language problems that were bound to crop up. The evening was rounded up by watching the Indian hit movie Chake De India (Victory India) which shows the challenges of team building but the richness of diversity.

On the second day the participants worked with the Peace Counts material beginning with the exhibition. We were fortunate to have a great weather and a beautiful outdoor location in which the posters could be hung and also space for discussions. This added to the richness of the discussion as the participants shared their favourite pictures and looked for similarities and differences to what we experience in Sri Lanka. Lively discussions took place around the conflict stories, searching for ways out of the conflict. This was followed by a moving discussion as the youth from Mannar shared about living in a conflict affected area while the Sinhalese youth recounted the challenges and ‘harassment’ they had encountered as they tried to do peace work in other parts of the country. The evening was concluded by an impromptu cultural show as the youth showed their acting, dancing and singing skills. The evening would have gone on till the wee hours of the morning such was the enthusiasm in the group.

At the end of the day we were even compelled to ask ourselves “what exactly is the problem in this country?”, “Why are we engaged in this seemingly endless cycle of violence?” There was some hope that even though we were limited by time, language, traditions and cultures that the seeds of cooperation and solidarity sown during those two days will continue to grow and flourish.  


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