Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Years of Building Hope and Reconciliation

“Those who have lost their near and dear ones during the three decades of the long war please step forward to the line.” As the question was asked, everyone present in the hall took a step forward and stood facing each other. They belonged to all the communities of the rainbow country that Sri Lanka is with all its diversity.

The final question was part of the Freedom Writers’ game enacted during the Teachers’ Training Programme by Sri Lanka Unites during the ongoing 5-day Future Leaders’ Conference. The realization that the protracted violence had inflicted all the communities has to begin with the teachers, who can then mentor their students. Violent social conflict often results in all side having the victim‘s mentality and restricts the ability to be considerate towards the sufferings of the other community. Conflict parties often ignore that Social conflict is often struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources, in which the aim is to neutralize, injure or eliminate each other.

 The final question was enough to drive home the point that it was Sri Lanka as a country that was adversely affected and not just one community. The game will soon be replicated for the 450 students from 20 districts across the island nation as part of the Sri Lanka Unites reconciliation movement. So far over 2000 students have participated in the Freedom Writers’ Game and several times like during the FLC-04 in Jaffna the game ended on high emotional notes with students from different communities stood in two rows facing each other. It is in each other’s eyes, that they find the shadows of pain created by the violence.

On the day of arrival, one could see the students huddled within their school groups and hesitant to mingle with the students from other schools. But within two days with their new found friends and they have gelled with each other pretty well and are learning to play as a team despite differences, pick each other up when in need and pat each other’s back when someone do well. They have learned the value of team work and communication through untangling human knot, established trust among themselves by meandering through the maze blind folded as one of their own guide them through and appreciated how everyone in the society was linked through Web.

Human knot is an amazing game which not only act as an ice-breaker but the team mates also get the message that even though they did not create the problem in the first place, they need to work collectively to overcome complex problems. Blind maze underlines the importance of two-way communication as a team member steers his/her blindfolded team members to overcome the obstacles without touching them.

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