Future Leaders Conference: Season 4

 

 

Over 400 student leaders , 80 volunteers , 60 teachers , 40  Sri Lanka Unites  team members from every district , ethnicity , religion , caste and creed of our island came together to prove that a new generation dares to unite. Sri Lankans from acr

oss the nation and around the world. They chose to be part of the solution and contribute towards leading Sri Lanka out of decades of conflict. They gathered in the glorious city of Jaffna , a former war zone but now to those at FLC4 the oasis that rekindled their passion for lasting peace , justice , equality and reconciliation.

A gathering of student leaders from across the nation representing every nook and cranny of our island not to mention 7 cities with the largest population of Sri Lankans outside Sri Lanka was a historic event. Three decades of war ensured this was not possible , even post independence an event intentionally geared towards celebrating an inclusive Sri Lankan identity in northern Sri Lanka organized by a non - partisan group not affiliated with the government may have never occurred. FLC4 was history in the making and led by a group of young professionals and brought to fruition by a team of which the average age was less than 24. 

This conference for many was their first exposure to Northern Sri Lanka. Going by our research during the past four years, over 70% of Sri Lankan youth do not have a friend outside their ethnic or religious group. The lack of exposure to each others culture and socio-economic challenges coupled with years of inherited prejudice against each other makes the FLC experience crucial in the journey towards reconciliation.  Hence this was a golden opportunity not just to learn and celebrate our shared Sri Lankan culture but also to hear the perspective of proven student leaders from across the nation. Throughout the 5-day conference students grappled with various issues and challenges to reconciliation and change in Sri Lanka. The passion, intellect and commitment depicted by the students for conflict transformation was an assurance that violent conflict will be strictly restricted to the past if the country continues to nourish its youth.

 

Program For the Conference

 

Session 1

All of us as Sri Lankans have been affected by the war in one-way or another and SLU sees that the key to overcoming such conflict is to understand the nature of it; to walk in another man's shoes. During the first full day of the conference, the sessions were geared towards just this.

The day started with speakers such as Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Mr. Javid Yusuf and Ms Gnana Moonesinghe giving an insight into the different perspectives of the Sri Lankan conflict with reference to history, personal experiences and other examples and emphasizing that a clear understanding and respect of another's perspective are fundamental to lasting peace.

Group activities which highlighted the theme of the day followed. C reative exercise to map our shared history as the war generation of Sri Lanka and activities that helped students understands the hurts of their fellow Sri Lankan were both moving and inspiring. This generation was born into war and chaos but never had had the opportunity to change that.

Session 2

The next day was focused on “The Role of the Youth in Leading the Change” and the morning began with the guest speakers, Mr Ashroff Omar, Mr Priyan Fernando and Dr Selvy Thiruchandran, emphasizing on the role of youth leaders in taking Sri Lanka into the next level of its “development” and the qualities such leaders need to possess in making that change.

The activities that followed, including forum theatre sessions, encouraged leadership skills along with teamwork and communication, which were needed to solve the problems that were presented to the students.

Session 3 

There is often too much talk on change but very little proactive and creative solutions and the speakers of the day including Ambassador Palihakkara, Dr Vinya Ariyaratne and Dr Muthukrishna Sarvanathan identified specific challenges to reconciliation (on a social, ethnic and economic level), which can be viably resolved at a civil society level especially by youth. A torrent of questions followed their session with students raising queries on language policy, educational reforms, corruption, human trafficking and youth unemployment!!

The rest of the day was focused on drawing from the issues raised in the session and giving creative solutions to addressing the various issues, which the students thought were necessary to be resolved to truly reconcile Sri Lanka.

Sports and Entertainment Session

 

Of course sports and entertainment sessions are always an integral part of the conference and are often the times when students really bond with each other. And this year several Sri Lankan pop artistes such as Randir, Ashanthi, Umaria and Dushyanth performed to show their support and commitment to the cause of youth led conflict transformation. Students were entertained and moved by songs and music from their own cultural affiliation and their shared culture.