The 9th Future Leaders Conference of Sri Lanka Unites was held in December 2017. Youth Engagement in Governance, Breaking the cycle of violence, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation were the themes of this conference.
Over the last 10 years of SLU, the greatest motivation for staff and volunteers of the organization to keep committing our efforts for the cause has been the powerful post-conference feedback. We would like to share an excerpt of a note sent to us from a participant, after the conference.
The following is a reflection from Fawaz Ameer from Akkaraipattu
Before this conference I have heard about SLU but not what they are about. So I had no idea what is going to happen at the Future Leaders’ Conference before I got there. I decided to join SLU after the workshop done by the Kalmunai Reconcilation Center of SLU.
I was very nervous when I got registered at the conference and entered my assigned room. Im bit shy to move around with new people, but I always wanted to be a good friend to everyone and wanted to meet new people.When I entered my room a Sinhala friend welcomed me and gave me some sweet snacks. I was little afraid to receive it because I had a mindset that Sinhala people look at us as enemies. He again told me to take it. So I took some.
After that I went to opening ceremony with my friends,we were divided into teams and I met my new team members.I stood alone behind the team members because I was very shy at that moment. Our team mentors were introduced to us and they taught us a simple cheer- we started to cheer for our new formed team. Still I was little shy to shout in front of strangers, so I kept quiet. After that we played the train game and the rope game so we all got introduced to each other. Only few of them remembered the names of all team mates. Me and some other guys couldn’t remember all the names.
After that we went to have dinner and went to bed.
The next day we had our breakfast and went for the morning session. Most of the participants didnt talk to each other but this change when we started playing games.We started to talk with each other. Cheered for them by shouting their names. We wished everyone even when they failed at a game. The best thing of that evening game session was, everyone tried beyond their abilities to get points for the team by winning our matches. I thought to myself “each and every team mate is supporting and believing in me, so I should get them some points. I should not disappoint them". When the mentors asked for our thoughts after the games everyone replied the same.
We had a team challenge for *SLU TV* where we had to prepare a drama at the end of each day about what we learnt that day. It was like adrenaline to us for those 3 days. It brought the best out of us in a critical situation because we had only a small amount of time after our games to perform about what we learned throughout the day. This was a special experience for me. When we discussed about SLU TV on the first day, I was amazed seeing that people coming with different and amazing ideas. For the first time, we all discussed with each other about what we are going to perform. It made us more closer and that was the day I shared my thoughts and ideas with others. The unbelievable thing is, they appreciated my idea. For the first time in my life, my idea was appreciated by the people who I have never met before. Because sometimes if I get a new idea and tell it to my friends or parents, only few of them will support me and others will make fun of me.
No one ever tried to make my ideas and thoughts better by helping me and no one ever helped me to execute my ideas. But in *FLC* my team mates made my ideas better with the help of all the team members. They came front to execute each and everyone’s ideas and thought. That moment touched my heart. I decided at that moment, hereafter I should appreciate others thoughts in my life and support them. I should come up speak about my thought in the society and friends circle because someone will be there to join with me and give ideas to make my thoughts useful and successful.
Thanks to SLU for giving me a family beyond religion and language. We are not a team now but we are a family. *Pirate Family*
After the conference, I had a chat with my close family about Sri Lankan communities. He argued against other ethnic groups, about the *Re-emergence function* in the north, and the *Sinhala - Muslim clash* , *1983 clash* and much more. He had wrong opinion about these clashes. As a person who participated in the *FLC* I applied what I was taught in there. The thing I applied is *breaking the cycle of hate*. You know what?, it really worked. And I was so happy even I can build some peace and understanding in my family. If a single person can do this, what if we all get together?. So I have decided to work till the end with *SLU* to change my country.
I always wanted to say *IM a SRILANKAN * .
But I was little afraid to say these days because some people say Muslims are outsiders. They don’t belong here. But I realized not everyone is like that. The family I got in this conference had Sinhala and Hindu friends. But not even one person hated because of our religion or our language. They just looked and took care of us like their own brothers and sisters. And we realized that youth is the only way to change our country. We had a discussion about these things in our rooms in conference days. A big thanks to *SLU* for giving us this opportunity to move around with the people beyond religion and language and gave us a mindset that *Change is on its way*