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.