Centre for peacebuilding and reconciliation, Sri Lanka

Building peace across the divides of war.

Project overview

For nearly three decades, Sri Lanka has been scarred by a bitter civil war driven by ethnic tensions. In May 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka announced a decisive military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers). The war claimed thousands of deaths and tensions between ethnic groups remain high. If left to simmer below the surface, these tensions could threaten the fragile peace Sri Lanka is working to build. Local peacebuilder Dishani Jayaweera is determined to replace mistrust and fear with co-existence and harmony.

I’m imagining a Sri Lanka where all ethnic communities, all religious communities are living together happily and accepting that this land belongs to all of us, it’s not about minorities, it’s about everyone, all people. – Dishani Jayaweera

In 2003 Dishani set up the Center for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) along with her life partner Jayantha. They believe that change has to come from individuals. They are working with young people and religious leaders to build a united Sri Lanka guided by compassion, justice and equal respect for diversity. CPBR has reached out to all of the religious groups in Sri Lanka – Sinhalese Buddhists, Tamil Hindus, Muslim Islamic, and Tamil and Sinhalese Christians.

CPBR has set up four inter-faith dialogue groups and invites religious leaders to come and openly discuss what the future holds for their communities. These leaders go on to galvanise their constituencies by promoting inter-community activities that bring people together regardless of religion or ethnicity. CPBR has also set up the Young Visionaries programme to train the next generation of leaders to help people live together and prevent any further hostility or violence.

For more information, insight and analysis on the conflict in Sri Lanka, visit Insight on Conflict.

Making an impact

By the end of 2009 Dishani had trained 195 young leaders, known as ‘Young Visionaries’, to overcome ethnic divides in their communities. Since then these young people have organised their own village activites. They have reached hundreds of youth and religious leaders to challenge the prejudice and mistrust that they have grown up with. These activities, ranging from community clear-ups, environmental conservation to cultural festivals, bring groups who have a history of communal violence together to work collectively.

Before I went to the workshop I only thought of other communities as a source of conflict, there was no understanding between us. The workshop made me change my attitude, I feel a sense of ‘unity’ and a responsibility to pass this on to my community. - Vivekanadhan, a Young Visionary from a Tamil community

The activities of these Young Visionaries challenge the existing social system – Sinhalese villages inviting neighbouring Tamil and Muslim people to come to their New Year celebrations, Young Tamil and Islamic men and women helping to clean up a Buddhist temple, all three communities coming together to learn about conserving their beaches. They are simple activities that have been unthinkable for nearly three decades and that offer a vision of a united future for Sri Lanka.

It costs just £38 for a Young Visionary to attend a workshop, to learn more skills that they can pass on to their communities. Donate today and you can help these young people be the change in their communities.

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