The Road to Reconciliation

 

The desire for reconciliation alone achieves nothing.  Dreams must be linked to action, and theoretical posturing must be supported by practical thinking if any lasting change is to be achieved.  As its name implies, the Future Leaders Conference intends to not only achieve reconciliation, but to promote leadership qualities in the students.  Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This is an oft repeated phrase at SLU functions that support youth empowerment.  If you will not work for the change you believe in, how can you expect anyone else to put forth any effort?


Change does not occur on its own, no matter how badly we wish it would.  The students who attend the Future Leaders Conference must not only desire reconciliation, but also take responsibility for upholding its principles.  While reconciliation in Sri Lanka is the ultimate goal of Sri Lanka Unites, teaching the characteristics of leadership is just as important.  The youth of the nation must be equipped with the personal characteristics necessary to found and cultivate school projects that increase understanding between peoples and provide tangible benefits to the community.  In a nation where options to become involved with existing reconciliation and community development projects are limited, SLU is laying the groundwork by preparing individuals to actualize their own ideas.


Forming future leaders has several benefits.  First, it encourages the reconciliation movement to expand at an exponential rate.  Student leaders, by example, inspire their younger peers who did not have the opportunity to attend the Future Leaders Conference.  A substantial leadership program has the greatest chance to make grassroots change sustainable.  Second, it allows the next generation to direct the future they wish to see.  These students understand the attitudes and needs of their districts better than the Sri Lanka Unites core team and are the people best suited to lead reconciliation initiatives in their schools.  These students will be able to hear from many inspirational figures at the coming conference, and their experiences there will inform their decision of how to live as leaders.

Sri Lanka Unites Represented on International Peace Boat

Sri Lanka Unites partnered with the Weeramantry Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER) to send a Sri Lankan delegation on the international Peace Boat. SLU was represented by national committee member and School relations co-ordinatorSanuraGunawardena and Trinity College SLU chapter representative Johann Rattwatte. Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.


Peace Boat aims to implement positive social and political change in the world through global educational programs, cooperative projects and advocacy activities. These activities are carried out in partnership with civil society organizations throughout the world. Peace Boat carries out its main activities through a chartered passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages.


Sri Lanka Unites was honored to be invited to be part of the Sri Lankan delegation along with the Weeramantry Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER) on the 76th Global Peace Voyage which sailed from Yokohama, Japan on May 8th, 2012. Each Peace Boat voyage is a fascinating mix of people from different cultures, ages, professions and countries. The wide range of experiences, outlooks and viewpoints on building a culture of peace combine to create an eclectic onboard environment that mirrors the diversity of the world and its peoples.


Our delegation boarded the ship in Singapore and traveled to Phuket, Thailand to visit an orphanage and an area devastated by the 2004 Tsunami. From Thailand the Peace Boat traveled to Sri Lanka where the Peace Boat travelers met with other Sri Lanka Unites team members. SLU delegate SanuraGunawardana described his experience on the Peace Boat as a remarkable one where he was able to meet a diverse group of people from different cultures and backgrounds and learn and broaden his perspectives on reconciliation and other pertinent issues. He described the lectures, cultural events, sports activities and other events on board as a unique environment for building friendships and learning to make effective positive change in society. Specifically, he and the other delegates were able to learn about other nations’ efforts in working through similar issues as Sri Lanka.  They hosted forums with  OnePeople.sg, an organized dedicated to reconciling ethnic divisions in Singapore and a team from Northern Ireland working towards reconciliation in their nation.

Throughout the voyage, the Sri Lankan delegation facilitated discussions and hosted events to share their experiences growing up in a nation torn by war and their volunteer efforts to bring reconciliation to Sri Lanka.  The Sri Lankan delegation introduced Sri Lankan culture to the Peace Boat participants by hosting a cultural night prior to the day the ship docked in Colombo. Karen Hallows had the following to say regarding the Sri Lanka Unites representatives Sanura and Johann did an excellent job onboard Peace Boat. It was a real pleasure to have them with us. Thanks to them, the participants of Peace Boat were able to see how youth are building a new future in Sri Lanka- truly inspiring! Thank you!

 

Mentoring Weekend

The annual Sri Lanka Unites Mentoring Day was held on 19th May 2012 at Wesley College, Colombo. It was an immense success with twenty eight schoolsparticipating. Schools were paired to form teams that will initiate and carry out projects during the next three months. This initiative; known as Champions of Change, enables students to live out the philosophy and concepts taught at the Future Leader’s Conference. The initiative has essentially two main pillars: firstly, a deeper pursuit of reconciliation and empowering and celebrating youth leadership for lasting social change.


Each school is partnered with a school from a different region to form a multi-ethnic team. We expect the teams to come up with community based solutions to create sustainable and positive social change. For example, at this year’s Mentoring Weekend, St. Anne’s Wattala and Siththivinayagar Hindu College, Mannar have identified an under-priviledged school in Mannar to provide them with necessary stationary while St. Thomas’ College in Matara and  St. Xavier’s College in Mannar will combine their efforts to host a three day leadership campaign followed by a blood donation campaign.

We wish all our student champions the very best in their endeavors and look forward to guiding them and working with them as they join together to be the change they dream of being.