Thursday, July 28, 2011

Countdown to the Conference: 15 days - Integration

            Ethnic integration is a key component of reconciliation.  Stereotypes and cycles of hatred breed on ignorance long after actual hostilities have ended, and Sri Lanka runs the risk of following this pattern if its ethnic groups do not interact and engage in dialogue.  This week’s school relations meeting addressed this issue directly as the remainder of the accepted students were confirmed and divided into teams.  Every FLC season to date has featured teams that compete in sporting events and bond during their small group sessions.  Though the teams are designated according to major cities (Colombo Chargers, Jaffna Giants, Anuradapurah Avengers etc.) the student composition has no relation to these locales.  In fact, every team possesses a wide variety of students without any ethnic or geographic predominance.  This format encourages students to engage with those who they might otherwise avoid, and build positive relationships with those who were once considered enemies.  This directly confronts the problem of a divided Sri Lanka by allowing friendly competition through sports to foster team spirit with those of different backgrounds.

The SLU team at the office reviewing applications
            Most people stake their identity alongside a collective whole with which some notable similarities exist.  Religion, ethnicity, and even personality can all serve as unifying factors for individuals within a group.  The ethnic problem in Sri Lanka does not have to be resolved at the expense of one community.  Rather, social communities can be redefined and expanded while ethnic identity remains intact.  As Sinhalese, Tamil, Burgher, and Malay students interact at the conference, their identity enlarges until it is shared by those across the ethnic divide.   Their goals now include those aims from those who used to be foreign and unrelated.  It is difficult to swallow the alienation of a different ethnic group as a collective goal when your friends include those from that same ethnicity.  If this can be accomplished, then priorities will shift to realign with the new state of affairs, perhaps without ever having to be consciously targeted.

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