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Sri Lankans come together after flooding


In January 2011 floods hit Sri Lanka. Local peacebuilder Dishani works with young people and religious leaders to build connections and understanding betweem communities. As the floods hit the Batticaloa region, it was these connections that the people called upon to help them when they most needed it.

  • Published

    26 May 2011
  • Written by

    Peace Direct

In January of this year floods hit Sri Lanka, more than one million people were affected. The region most badly hit was Batticaloa – a largely Tamil area that had been at the centre of fighting in the last years of the civil war.

After 26 years of war Sri Lankan community is still largely divided along ethnic and religious lines. Local peacebuilder Dishani Jayaweera has been working with young people and religious leaders for the past five years, to unite communities and prevent the mistakes of the past reoccuring by building connections and understanding between groups.

As the floods hit Batticaloa, it was these connections that the people called upon to help them when they most needed it.

I got a call from a Buddhist monk. He said “In the days of the war we were able to sleep without any problem even after seeing what the war had done to you, but now after getting to know you personally, we can not even close our eyes when we heard about the floods. - Fawmiya, Kathankudy
We were displaced and had to move to a nearby school. There were many people and children there, and we didn’t have food or drinking water. No one came to our help, not even the Government officials. As a desperate attempt, I called a friend I met through Dishani’s programme. He told me not to worry, only to tell him how many of us were there, and he will make arrangements to send food as soon as possible.

Many times he contacted me, till the food reached us, even checking if there were any special preparations to be done when cooking food for Hindus. It broke the barrier between our two communities. I am ashamed to say that when Kathankudy and Kalladi Muslims of the border village faced the same situation during the year 1990, our people robbed them instead of helping them. - Sivapalan, Batticolao Religious member

Dishani’s project trains young people and religious leaders in conflict management – to promote tolerance and understanding. The project involves 238 young people and 290 religious leaders. Together they have become a network of peacebuilders creating a united future.

National action for children


Following the success of a Religious Tolerance workshop in March, the Young Visionaries (YV) team decided to host another. A highly successful national workshop was organised, directed at younger children from across Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious divides.

The YVs hosted the Children’s Aesthetics Camp in in Anuradapura. Two-hundred children aged between 12-16 spent three days taking part in artistic activities such as drama, music and painting, working together with children of all religious, cultural and regional backgrounds.

The aim of the event was to promote religious tolerance amongst young people in Sri Lanka. It also went some way to lessen the trauma many of these children were left with after the floods. Religious clergy from across the divides were strong supporters of the national workshop, helping to organise and promote the event from the start.

It costs £38 for one young visionary to attend a workshop that will equip them with the skills to make a difference in their communities – make a gift today and you can help them


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