Monday, October 31, 2011

The SUNDAY LEADER speaks of SLU School Relations Tour

Sri Lanka Unites – School Tour | The Sunday Leader

Sri Lanka Unites – School Tour

Sri Lanka Unites is a group of young people changing the country, and they are keeping at it.
After bringing students from all over the island to two youth leadership conferences, they are now on a bus tour of the island. I have been following their videos and stories online and it is really amazing to see.
Some people believe in boycotting Sri Lanka or punishing the government before reconciliation begins, but I don’t think that works. What about the young people that have to wait? For their sake, we have to start right now.
The vital task at hand is not rolling back the war, it is rolling out the future. It is about uniting Sri Lanka in heart and mind. In some circles, however, even talking about this is difficult. Among the diaspora, many people don’t identify as Sri Lankan and the term an identity is surprisingly controversial among the english speaking elite at home. Many do not like the flag, or want the government to make certain moves before they do anything. This, I think, is a minority. A vocal one, but the future doesn’t belong to them. There are many more people putting hope into action.
What is great about Sri Lanka Unites (led by Prashan de Visser) is that it is run by young people reaching young people. Rather than setting prerequisites for peace and documenting what is wrong, they are just going out and making a change. What I have seen through their experience is that the ground reality is actually a lot more hopeful than cynics would have you believe.
What is beautiful about what Sri Lanka Unites is doing is that it is so simple. Difficult and complicated to do, but simple in its final application. Kids are making friends with kids from other parts of the island. Before the war sports and scouts and stuff did this, but it needs a bit of a kick start. It is actually much more effective than any top-down political solution or even political devolution. These are kids making friends with other kids and actually uniting as people, not political parties or voters. Just people.
I was especially encouraged by a young man from Kegalle who said his new Tamil friends visited for local New Year and that they were visiting in December. I was also struck that a young man, Ashan, from Trinity said not only did his mind change, he changed his mother’s mind as well. That is how change generally works, especially change of the heart. From the youth, from the ground, a few young people at a time.
In another example, a young man from Jaffna visited Matara for the first time and was laughing about how he got a rose from a Sinhala girl saying, “I think we have reached the first step for reconciliation”.
This is how change starts and reconciliation begins. It isn’t something the government can dictate or legislate, and it is not something that can devolve from the centre.
The government can certainly get out of the way or do more than it is doing, but reconciliation is ultimately between people on the ground. Rather than lobbying the centre or international bodies, true change makers like Sri Lanka Unites are doing it school by school, town by town, person by person.
Admittedly, a better education system would mix students from within towns and across regions (through sports, etc) better than it does, but civil society can pick up some of the slack. Each young person that groups like Sri Lanka Unites reaches becomes an ambassador to their families, to their communities and to the nation and world at large. They truly are supporting a new generation of leadership.
I for one find this very exciting, and you can actually follow it all without trekking round the country with them. Just ‘like’ Sri Lanka Unites on Facebook (
I think you’ll like what you see.
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Posted by on Oct 30 2011. Filed under Article 14. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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