2009 has been an historic year in Sri Lanka with the military victory over the last of the rebels in May. As the country embarks on a fragile peace for the first time in 3 decades, peacebuilder Dishani Jayaweera and her organisation the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) have been working with young people to overcome the considerable barriers between communities.
The ‘Young Visionary’ project works with young people from Tamil, Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim communities who have grown up in a world shaped by suicide bombers and security checks. The project trains them to be leaders and advocates for peace in their communities. In the past 12 months the organisation has selected 40 Young Visionaries from different parts of the country and brought them together through a series of workshops. In 2009 the Young Visionaries have explored the causes of conflict, and learnt from each other the effects of the war on other communities. They have been trained in project management and in Non-Violent Direct Action so that they are prepared to challenge injustice.
These 40 young people have set up peer groups in their own communities, and using the skills they learnt from the workshops they are organising cultural events and youth groups that will celebrate their diversity not their difference. The peer groups have expanded the Young Visionary project fivefold and they will continue to grow. They marked the end of the year through collective activity, both practical – working together to provide flood relief in the Eastern province, and in protest – an artistic campaign in Colombo to celebrate diversity.
January promises to be a busy month for the Young Visionaries as they plan their activities for the upcoming year and we look forward to watching them strive for their vision of a non-violent future for Sri Lanka.