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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Youth are breaking the cycle of conflict in Sri Lanka

More than 25 years of violent conflict in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, yet the country remains traumatized.

Ethnic tension, between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority persists, and sometimes it seems as if nothing has been learned through the trauma of decades of civil war.

It’s been 5-years since the brutal civil war ended, yet there are still few opportunities for the two groups to interact and forge a true and lasting peace that would benefit everyone, especially families whose villages were ravaged by the conflict.

Reconciliation between ethnic groups has fallen to the wayside as the country tackles the extensive rebuilding process. Yet if tensions are not adequately addressed, reducing animosity between ethnic groups becomes less and less feasible.

Communities have been profoundly impacted, in a negative way, by the discord between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations. The events and violence of the decades-long conflict are not easily undone or reconciled, as evidenced by the fact that a culture of violence is still very present.

Learning is an effective way to overcome the legacy of violence.

In the midst of the enduring hostility, there is an opportunity to foster unity among youth.

In Nuiwara Eliya, east of Colombo and about half-way across the island, HOPE International Development Agency is working with students to eradicate hatred and animosity among their ethnic groups and families.

Youth from all ethnic groups are participating. Opportunities for open and respectful discussion between students regarding ethnicity are woven into the process of helping young people learn basic skills that increase their employability, including languages, math, and practical skills such as sewing. Over the course of their education, youth are learning from each other and are connecting on a new level, the results of which are peace and understanding rather than conflict.

Young people are beginning to see humanity in each other, where before there was only hostility regarding their ethnicity. Timely, positive direction, as well as education, is enabling youth to be engaged in promoting non-violence, learning to work together, educating each other, and resisting cultural discourses that promote violence.

In meeting people’s practical needs we’re also meeting an equally important need - peace. 

Rebuilding Sri Lanka's social fabric continues to be a challenge. HOPE International Development Agency is committed to addressing the challenge of ethnic reconciliation and peace in whatever way we can.

In the face of a legacy of violence, our efforts sometimes feel like the proverbial drop in the bucket, yet what is a bucket of water but a multitude of drops?