“Today I am dreamer, I am no longer afraid to have dreams. I have big dreams”. He is all of 22 years of age. But the confidence glinting in his eyes and his big dreams are way beyond his age.
For the better part of his life, Benislos Thushan, hailing from Jaffna, has known conflict as the normal way of life, where bomb explosions and weapon firing was a routine during the peak times of the war. “I had got displaced even when I was in my mother’s womb as the war was going on. We got displaced again when I was eight year old and spent some months in IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps,” he said, adding, “War was not a big thing because violence has been infused in my life so much."
The matter of fact tone in which he described the place of ‘normalcy’ that once war had in the lives of Sri Lankan is in contradiction to the hopes he exudes now. His journey towards hope began in 2010 when he participated in the second edition of the Future Leaders Conference (FLC) organized by Sri Lanka Unites (SLU).
“It (The Future Leaders Conference Season 02) was the beginning of the journey. Till then I only associated Sinhalese with hatred. But once I was there, for the first time Yohan, a Sinhalese came and hugged me,” said Thushan reminiscing about his experience at FLC. FLC gave wings to his dreams and he decided to come out of his cocoon. Today he has metamorphosed into a motivated youth aspiring to be an effective agent of change and become a multi-faceted young person. He speaks impeccable English, understands Sinhalese effortlessly and is aspiring to study medicine. “When I came to FLC, I did not know English. But then if I wanted to sustain my new friendships, I was under obligation to understand the language. And I started reading a lot in English.” Thushan’s perseverance paid off as he landed with a job at a leading Sri Lankan newspaper and started writing on socio-economic and political issues. He intends to study medicine and use it as a tool for post-conflict transformation in the society.
His passion was also sustained over a period of time by the doors of opportunity opened at SLU. “I had small dreams. It was my dream to go out of Jaffna and then I got to visit 22 Sri Lankan districts and interact with more and more people. Today I want to be a bridging factor between different communities and regions,” said Thushan speaking about his dreams. “Before FLC, I was only interested in academics. I had dreams which were self-centred, but nothing about society. But now I am a dreamer, big time. During the conference, I was able to see that absence of violence can lead to a prosper life.” “When you hold grudge against somebody you are not going to make any progress. And during the conference I decided that I should not be doing that,” added Thushan talking about his transformation into a progressive and constructive youth.
Today he does not seek to counter people’s hatred with mere words but with loud actions. “One of my friends used to hate people from other community. I did not argue with him. But brought him to SLU and today he is a firm believer in the cause and sees social harmony as an achievable goal,” said Thushan with a blithesome smile.