Thursday, July 21, 2011

Countdown to the Conference: 21 days - Overcoming Conflict with Culture

            A 45 minute drive from the SLU office took us to Selyna’s apartment in Colombo 10.  That evening, we were to have a departmental meeting that covered the best way to schedule programs for the upcoming Future Leaders Conference.  As we settled into the living room, the meeting began by consulting the time tables for the student’s arrival, registration, and opening ceremony.  Soon, we were deliberating over different options for the students’ time to unwind in between workshops and small group sessions, and the conversation turned to the nature of conflict.

The program team in discussion while taking notes 
            Being a land that houses significant populations of four of the world’s five major religions as well as several different ethnicities, Sri Lanka has the benefit of drawing upon a rich cultural heritage from diverse backgrounds while possessing the simultaneous curse of an increased probability of fragmentation and war.  One event that students will have the opportunity to attend during the conference is the Perahera festival in Kandy.  The team agreed that the Buddhist festival is an example of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage.  In fact, an opportunity to see the Perahera festival may even be more appealing to those who come from Hindu, Christian, or Islamic backgrounds as they are more likely to be less familiar with the rich cultural display.  Regardless, it is encouraging to see an event such as this approached without hatred from those of different faiths.  

            For many, the conflict lies in a negative stereotype that has been passed down one generation after the other.  Several years ago, when SLU initially asked a gathering of young Sinhalese about their opinions of Tamils and vice versa, no one from either ethnicity had met someone from the other group on which to base their impressions.  All of the negative reactions had been based on predetermined prejudices from others who also had had no personal interaction.  This leaves us with the news that real change is possible and introducing these young people to each other as equals and peers is a good place to start.

Like what you’ve read?  You can help support SLU’s mission by signing in under your own account at and adding this site.  Alternatively, click “join this site” under the followers tab to sign in with your google account and join publicly!  

No comments:

Post a Comment