Friday, March 30, 2012

Future Leader's Conference: Season 4 - Daily News

 Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Young leaders passionate about reconciliation

Future Leaders Conference - Season 4:
Young leaders passionate about the cause of reconciliation, ready to learn from the mistakes of the past and build a brighter future, are an immediate need in post-war Sri Lanka. The Future Leaders Conference is a platform that bridges the gap between this need and the real leaders of the future. Bringing together student leaders from around the island, Future Leaders Conference has, in the past three years has made a significant impact in the lives of the participants as well as in their schools and districts. This year for the fourth consecutive year Future Leaders Conference will continue in its journey towards achieving a truly reconciled Sri Lanka through impacting and changing the grassroots.

At last year’s Future Leaders Conference
Sri Lanka Unites, the youth movement that is responsible for the Future Leaders Conference, is founded on the simple truth that the end of the war was not the end of the conflict. Until the root problems that led to the conflict are resolved and until the various ethnicities of Sri Lanka co-exist, not just as cohabiters of the same nation but also as one society interacting with one another, one cannot say the conflict is truly over. The Future Leaders Conference serves as the first step towards true reconciliation. Student leaders of different ethnicities interact with those of other ethnicities for the first time. During the interactions stereotypical views are shattered as they relate with each other and realize the commonalities they share. Friendships are fostered that reach beyond ethnic and religious barriers, which have proven to be long-lasting, impacting not just their lives but also their families and societies. Post-war Sri Lanka is plagued with a reconciliation impasse, with one side refusing to accept the need for reconciliation and another refusing to accept a reconciliation that cannot resolve the core justice issues. Sri Lanka Unites through FLC creates a forum for the young minds to come together and through interaction learn the need for reconciliation, understand the issues that stand in the way of reconciliation and more importantly proactively work on resolving these issues, paving the way for a united Sri Lanka devoid of ethnic boundaries.
There has been a multitude of success stories from the past three conferences, where students who initially refused to even share a room with someone of another ethnicity at the end were in tears as they reluctantly took leave of their new found friends of another ethnicity. The agenda of the Future Leaders Conference involved a session where the students; both Sinhalese and Tamil, unconditionally asked their brothers from the other ethnicity to forgive them for the acts of injustice committed against them in the past.
While asking for forgiveness may seem like a purely symbolic act, we have seen through the past three years the long-lasting impact it has on the young minds, inspiring them to contribute towards achieving reconciliation. Beyond this emotional response to reconciliation, the conference provides a framework for students to formulate new opinions regarding other ethnicities that were previously clouded by hatred and stereotypes. To continue the momentum that begins at the conference, Sri Lanka Unites provides the participants with post-conference guidance on how they can impact their society, through Post-Conference Guide Books and Champions of Change (CoC) projects.
This year, while keeping the core concept of the conference intact, the programme for the conference is to be revamped to include more relevant issues. During the past three years, the required approach to reconciliation has changed dramatically as the participants of the conference hasmoved from the initial post-war period to a time where broader issues with respect to uniting Sri Lanka need to be addressed. The conference this year will include panel discussions with an open forum for students to express their views and opinions on the new concerns that have risen post-war. FLC-4 promises to move towards the next stage of an authentic reconciliation - addressing the issues that stand in the way towards a united Sri Lanka.
Even in the sports and entertainment segments of the conference, this year promises to be different. Julian Bolling, the only Sri Lankan swimmer to participate in three consecutive Olympic Games will be contributing his prowess in experiential learning games, where concepts and ideas are conveyed through sports. In addition, this year would include various opportunities for the participants and participating schools to compete for many awards such as The Champions of Change award, Best Trilingual Delegation award and awards for oratory, art and creative writing.
However, the most unique aspect of this year's conference is, in fact, its venue. This year the conference will be held at Jaffna College, in Vaddukoddai in the Jaffna peninsula.
This is indeed an historic event, as students from all 25 districts of the country gather at Jaffna and experience the culture and hospitality of their compatriots of the North. Organizing an event of this nature at Jaffna is a mammoth task, and this task has been cheerfully taken on by the Sri Lanka Unites team, who have started on preparations to make this year's conference one that would leave a lasting impression on the minds of the participants, and instill in them the passion to achieve a truly reconciled Sri Lankan society.

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