Recent reports indicate the level of violence in post-war Sri Lanka has changed but has not subsided. Now as much as ever, the work the Young Visionaries are doing to encourage peace and promote understanding between communities is vital to the peace of the nation. A recent spate of violent incidents implicating police has spawned a wave of public fury and angry editorials.
This brutality is not just against the minority Tamils or Muslims, but Singhalese are also finding themselves victims to police brutality. As the civil war recedes, the effects of 20 years of conflict on all parts of society is exposed and it is now crucial that this period is given full support to foster relations and overcome the divisions that have existed between communities for so long.
Forty Young Visionaries have completed their initial training and are ready to go back into their communities and pass on what they have learnt – to promote the country’s unity as well as its diversity and begin to work towards peace and social justice.
To give the Young Visionaries the tools to do this successfully, Dishani and the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) team have been running workshops focusing on project management as well as conflict transformation – ensuring that Young Visionaries will be able to define and meet their goals. The projects the Young Visionaries have devised will be different for each region, determined by the diversity of the communities, and yet each of them will strive to increase understanding between the communities by developing and strengthening their peer group. The Young Visionaries will be using a combination of techniques including community workshops and sports and drama workshops, and they will reach out not just to young people, but through them, to the whole community. Before this can happen, Dishani and the Young Visionaries will work hard to expand the peer groups, to gain support from within the communities to make the projects work – building up the numbers to strengthen the peace movement.
For Dishani it is essential that all communities realise their part in promoting and building peace and social justice, for if each community is to lay the blame at the feet of others, peace in Sri Lanka will be impossible to achieve. Whilst others pass the blame for Sri Lanka’s problems, Dishani asks “When are you ready to talk about what we, as the common people, can do? Our duty is to make everyone stand up for peace.” The Young Visionary project puts people and communities central to peacebuilding for as Dishani says, “If you don’t believe we can change this, why are we here?”