Saturday, July 6, 2013

Final Day of Sri Lanka Unites' Flagship Event

After 4 days of living with each other not many wanted to return home. The last day of the conference was not eagerly anticipated. Although everyone was looking forward to yet another day of FLC this would also be the final day they would get to spend precious time with their team. Spirits were high but emotions were mixed. A group of girls who had to leave on the 3rd day and return in the evening (as they were receiving prizes at their school prize giving) refused to do so as they couldn't stand the idea of leaving the conference even for a few hours. This is the level of enthusiasm with which each one of them embraced each new day at FLC.

Due to the spike in hate speech in the recent past we realized the need for informed information to circulate among people about the different religions. What better platform than FLC to do this? We had about 600 young student leaders all dressed in white eager to learn and make a difference. The first session comprised of a panel of four religious leaders representing each of the main religions in Sri Lanka. Each spoke of the the beliefs that their religion stood by. This was very significant as many of the pre-conceived notions and uninformed judgments of another's religion was broken down. The students were then able to ask questions and clarify doubts about another religion. The religious leaders were impressed as the students posed intelligent and timely questions. The leaders did justice to each question by answering without holding back. At the end of a powerful and excellent session many of the students and volunteers commented on how much they had needed an opportunity to participate in something of this calibre.

The teams returned to the hall now wearing their SLU FLC 5 T-shirts for the closing ceremony. Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala spoke to the audience and thanked Sangamitta Balika and the principal for their immense assistance for FLC 5. This is the first time FLC has been held in a Buddhist, all girls, government school. That in itself has been a great achievement only made possible by the enthusiasm and encouragement of the Principal of Sangamitta Balika. He spoke further on SLU and its journey to where it is today. He encouraged the students and applauded their efforts and enthusiasm to be agents of change and appreciate the immense potential that each of them possessed. Following this we had the finals of the oratory competition where the participant blew our minds away by the content of their speeches and their ability to deliver them so well. The moment that always moves the heart of the people is when the students take the stage and apologize to each other for the hurts and injustices of the past inflicted by one community to another. Although many have criticized that this is only a feel-good element there is no denying that the students need this. forgiveness needs to be asked, hurts must be acknowledged. It is a vital part of the healing process. To this day even participant of FLC 1 recount how much they appreciated that act of forgiveness and of acceptance. Many say that that was the moment it all changed and that was the moment they cherish to this day. No doubt the students felt this way this time too.

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