Category Archives: Nelson Mandela

A celebration of love

It’s Valentine’s Day today and a day to celebrate love. We at WFR believe that everyday should be a celebration of love, and our blog posts posted over the course of more than 10 months spoke about love in all its glorious and multitudinous forms. Thus Valentine’s Day belongs to all of us, “for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite”(Nelson Mandela). Best wishes and lots of love from the WFR team! 🙂

An ode to the sky VIII

“When we look up, it widens our horizons.  We see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries.  No differences of caste or religion or race.”  ~Julia Gregson

The WFR team never expected that “an ode to the sky” could widen our horizons so much (literally!). Teammate Shailee said it best: “I was just thinking that, how we never took much time to notice the sky before. But now, the shades, the colors, the beauty of it; we see it all.”

We’re grateful to our friends who are as besotted with the sky as we are, for providing an awesome array of photographs and captions. For the first time ever, we have poems written in Sinhala as captions(and we wish we had Tamil ones too). Those poems reminded us once more of Nelson Mandela’s quote that “

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Let the results speak for themselves…

You don’t need to be a Christian
To love the silence of a church
You don’t need to be a Buddhist
To love the calmness of a temple

You don’t need to be someone
To love something
You can be anyone
And love anything
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya 
Photo by Rochelle Silva @ Galle

The sky must be looking the same over there,

 Where I used to look out from the balcony.
Summer must be raging still somewhere,
 To the tune of a forgotten symphony.
Funny, I never felt the sky was different,
As I often looked up from the lawn:
 “But it wasn’t YOUR country,” most go on to moan..
 “It’s NOT?” I ask them…
HOW could it not be mine?
Spreading across a Delhi Summer,
 trust me it all was the same, and MINE.

Poem by Priyangwada Perera

Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

Beyond the dark leaves,
Branches and their shadows
Beyond the blue skies
So blue, they seem black
Beyond the clouds,
Beyond it all
Lies nothing
And lies everything
There, you are who you are
You are nothing but a person
And your thoughts, your opinions
Your beliefs,
They don’t matter,
And beyond the blue skies,
People love,
People accept
People tolerate
Beyond the skies,
There is nothing
And there is everything
And there is peace
Poem and photo by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya @ Panadura

Born in the darkness
Raised with a soul
Seen by the world
As a faint blur
No one to guide through
This pitch darkness
It seems to be like
Witching hour is up

Through the dark clouds
Something could be seen
It is a ray of light
Beaming on the world
The darkness is banished
The world happy again
Thank you Almighty God
For listening to our prayers
Poem by : Vijini Mallawaarachchi
 The photograph is the property of UmbraDeNoapte-Stock( and has been used with his direct permission.

Galle: a beautiful city of cobbled streets and ancient buildings bordered by the crystal clear Indian ocean. It is also home to this Sri Lankan flag fluttering in the breeze atop a rampart that has withstood the test of time. True, it IS a Dutch fort, but we mustn’t forget all the heroes who made this sight possible. Gaining independence in 1948 was a result of the combined efforts of Sinhalese leaders such as D.S.Senanayake and Anagarika Dharmapala, Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Muslim leaders such as M.C.Siddhi Lebbe and T.B. Jaya. To me, it was an instance when the segregated communities of Sri Lanka came forward to work for the same goal; an incident that we can emulate.
Caption and photo by Rochelle Silva @ Galle

In forgotten oceans
And greying skies
Lies the truth
All humans seek
But we are too busy
And so look away
From the crashing waves
That the heavens
Peek through the clouds
Allowing a glimpse of
The promised paradise
We don’t notice
Instead of looking
We walk away
And as unhuman
As they are
It is the dog, bird, animal
That chooses to stay
For their eyes,
They seek no color
Instead the truth
The skies offer
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Ayodhya Karunaratne @ Negombo

The spotted dove or the “Kobeiya” is not always considered beautiful, due to its dull color. This is especially so, when the spotted dove is compared to the white dove, the symbol of peace. We tend to always assume the symbol is the only thing with beauty, that the utopia we all keep looking for is full of white doves. Yet, sometimes, there is beauty in the absence of complete peace. Sri Lanka may not have white doves flying around, yet, the spotted dove, with its quiet existence, does make our island beautiful.
Caption and photo by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya @ Panadura

The sinking sun
Marks the end of day
But night is yet to come
As the sky impersonates
An artist’s canvas
We all say a silent prayer
For with darkness
Comes out the evil forces
Of hate, lust and anger
Yet, the eeriness
The night brings out
Is pushed away
By that smile you
Hadn’t seen
For months
It is the love of parent,
Sibling or friend
It is love
In its purest form
Full of innocence
That makes the night safer
And as the sun sets,
We can all worry less
For goodness prevails
Or so we can believe
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Sharuka Wickrama Adittiya @ Marine Drive, Colombo

අහසක් එක සේ ඇත අප සැමටම
එත් එය දෙස බලා එකමුතු කම
දැකිය නොහැක අද අපට
අපගේ වෙනස් කම්
සුලු වුවද බොහෝ
ඒවා නිසා
අප අතර ඇත්තේ
සුලු පටු දුරක් නොව
එක් කෙනෙකු
අනෙකුට කරන්නේ
සහෝදර සහෝදරියෝ
එසේද ආදරය
අත්ලට අත්ල තබා
සමාව දිය යුතුය
එසේය නැවතත් අහසේ
එකමුතුකම දැකිය හැක්කේ
අප අතර
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya 
Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

The moon was once there
No matter how dark was my world
The clouds of pain didn’t dare
Enter the love’s fold
No doubt it was a starless sky
But trust me,
it wasn’t scary or shy:
The gloom, the dark, I didn’t care,
In my sky, the moon was there

Poem by Priyangwada Perera
Photo by Kevin Fernando

අහස කියයි රහසක් පොළොවට,
“මම නුඹට ආදරෙයි,
 සැම දේටමත් වඩා,
 නුඹ වෙනුවෙන් කරන්නට බැරි දෙයක්,
 නැත්තේය මට කිසිමදා.”
වැසි වැටී පොළොව තෙත් කර,
 ගම් නියම් ගම් සරුසාර කර,
 නැවත යයි උඩුගුවන දෙසටම,
 වැටෙනු වස් පොළොවට සැනෙකින්,
නොවද මෙය චක්‍රයක්?
 මහ පුදුම ආදරයක්?

අහස පොළොවට කියූ වදන්ම,
කියයි නුඹ මට ආදරෙන්,
අහස හා පොලොව සේ සබඳ,
අපි දුරයි ජාතියෙන්,
අපි දුරයි ආගමෙන්,
හදවතින් අපි එක්වුන මුත්…

Poem by: Anonymous

Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

නොදන්නා අයෙක්
අපගේ මිතුරකු වන්නේ
ජාතිය හෝ
අගම හෝ කුලය
නිසා නොව
ඔහුගේ ගුණ යහපත් කම
මිනිසා විසින් සාදා ගෙන ඇති
හේතුවක්, තේරුමක් නැති
භේධ නිසා
කී දෙනෙක්
මිතුරන් නොවී
සතුරන් බවට
පත්වෙන්නට ඇත්ද?
අපට අහස දෙස බලා
“ඔය එක් ජාතියකට
අයත් සඳය,
ඔය එක් ආගමකට
අයත් වලා කුලුය”
යයි කිව නොහැකිය
ජාතියක්, ආගමක්
දිය නොහැක
දිය යුතුද නැත
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Rochelle Silva @ Colombo

A place in your heart

“There’s a place in your heart and I know that it is love”, sang Michael Jackson. We love a lot of people and things, don’t we? Family, friends, holidays and… our country? So the war in Sri Lanka ended more than 4 years ago. Does this mean our country has been full of love and peace ever since? Do I hear you saying “Oh! Can we talk about something else?”?…

True, the country has moved ahead in terms of economic development. However, I’m not too sure of the development in our attitudes, especially when I see the recent hike in hate speech and religious discrimination over social media. Every religion is based on the golden rule that you shall treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Is that the reason why racist posts and comments with hurtful rhetoric flourish online? Is that the reason why sharing an anti-racist post can earn you nasty comments?

I faced a similar incident a few months back. To be honest, I was angry: Don’t these people realize that they are paving the path for another war? Another 30 year war which crippled our nation? Be frank; all of us have been affected by the war in one way or another. Think about all the innocent lives that were lost… Maybe some of your loved ones too… Think about the feelings you had when you heard that bloodcurdling music of breaking news on TV… Think about the curfews, check points, bomb threats, the effect on development, the mass exodus of many Sri Lankans… On a personal note, I nearly lost my mother due to the central bank bombing in 1996. Just thinking that there was a possibility she might not have made it makes me tear up inside. Do you want those horrific events again?

Even though all these thoughts were circling in my heart, there was a catch here. If I commented with an equally sarcastic comment, I would just be “hating” hatred. I discussed the possible motives behind this with a great friend of mine who raised some interesting questions. Wasn’t it possible that these persons had undergone traumatic experiences due to the war? Maybe their relatives got killed. Maybe they were brought up with the idea that they should hate other ethnic groups. If my mother had died, I might have become a bitter racist too. As Nelson Mandela says, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite’’

Fortunately, there are Sri Lankans who can say: “I’m not racist. I treat everyone equally.” If you are one of them, be really proud about yourself! As Mahatma Gandhi says,Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. But you can’t say “Okay. I’m strong”, and wash your hands of responsibility. If there’s a place for Sri Lanka in your heart, you should put your strength into action.

Whenever you come across hate in your day to day lives, take the time to understand. Forgive him/her and take the first step towards reconciliation. It could also be something as small as sharing an inspirational quote/article on your social media profiles. As Martin Luther King says, “you can either react with bitterness or turn your suffering into a creative force.” I’m sure you’ll make the right choice- because there’s a place in your heart and I know that it is love.

By an anonymous contributor

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 16

The sixteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

“Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer”-Nelson Mandela.
Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 1992 (
Nelson Mandela is a leader who charmed even enemies by his attitude. He invited people whom he did not trust for dinner, called them to consult and associated with them by flattering and giving them gifts. Even people whom the public thought were against Mandela became good friends with him. Mandela would pick up the phone and call them on their birthdays. He would go to family funerals. Mandela saw these as opportunities. Mandela even took a step further and included his jailers among friends and put leaders who had kept him in prison in his first Cabinet. Mandela believed that embracing his rivals was a way of controlling them: they were more dangerous on their own than within his circle of influence. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. He used to say, ‘people act in their own interest.’ It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or defect. The flip side of being an optimist – and he is one – is trusting people too much.
Mandela teaches us that enemies could be more dangerous when they are not pacified. Most enemies around us are people with whom we do not agree with. These people may also have personal grudges and animosities, which we might not know unless we take the effort to associate with them. If we do not associate with our enemies and understand their views, they might become aggressive one day. In the end it is us who have to suffer. Mandela considered associating with enemies as opportunities to know what people think of him. He then changed his ways of approach. Sometimes an enemy might tell you the aspects in life that you need to develop much better than a friend. We should make efforts to know our enemies for two main reasons. One being able to predict what problems they might cause; and the other is that the enemies do help develop our weaknesses. But the mistake Mandela made was that he trusted the enemies too much. This resulted in the feeling of being betrayed when the South African President F.W. de Klerk attacked Mandela in public.
We should associate with the enemies but keep track of their movements. They should feel that they are given the freedom but we should always be observant of their acts and movements. A good leader has to have the capability of associating with the followers as well as with the enemies. But the two approaches should be different. It is through experience that one knows how to associate with the two different groups in such a way that even the enemies do not feel that they are treated as enemies. 

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 15

The fifteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

In this article, we would be looking at another important lesson from Nelson Mandela. (Refer installment 4 and installment 14 for more)
Nelson Mandela holds up his clenched fist in triumph the day after his release from prison in 1990 after 27 years at the age of 72. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

“Nothing is black or white”-Nelson Mandela
Life is never either/or. Decisions we make are always complex, and there are competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn’t correspond to reality. Nothing is as straightforward as it appears. In our lives, we find many situations that require decisions. Be it a simple yes/no or a complex answer, we still have decisions to make. When we attempt to find the answer, how do we approach? Do we analyze the situation and approach in a pragmatic manner or do we approach in a solely idealistic manner? It should be noted that though Mandela was an idealist, he was a pragmatic idealist. We find that each and every problem has many roots. While Mandela was indisputably and clearly against the apartheid, the causes of the apartheid were complex. They were historical, sociological and psychological. Nelson’s calculation was always: what is the end I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?
The civil conflict of Sri Lanka has many causes. Most of us know only a few and as a result we do not have a clear understanding of the issue. As citizens of Sri Lanka, we should gather information and clarify our doubts. It means being unbiased and obtaining knowledge on the conflict. This is not easy. People are usually driven by emotions. The country needs leaders who can control their emotions and approach issues in an intellectual manner. We need to sharpen our minds to find practical solutions to problems. The country has several intellectual leaders whose ideas are often termed ‘out of the world’. As future leaders we should be able to develop the skill of coming up with practical solutions. We should not lose sight of our vision. It is the cause that should drive a person. When the vision of the cause becomes blurred, the journey towards the goal becomes difficult. It is important to always remind yourself of the cause you stand for, and make wise decisions that would benefit both the cause and the people.   

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 14

The fourteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

It is true that we learned valuable lessons from Nelson Mandela in a previous article as well, but there are many more lessons that we can learn from him; lessons that could make our homeland a better place to live in. We would also like to wish this great leader a speedy recovery…

“Know your enemy – and learn about his favourite sport”

The Afrikaners are white South Africans whose favourite sport was rugby. The blacks in South Africa preferred football. During Mandela’s time, the white South Africans treated the blacks as inferior to them. This made Mandela and several others voice against the apartheid policy. The blacks and whites in South Africa continued to fight with each other. The blacks would always support the team opposing their National Rugby team. The gap between the two groups got wider and wider. Mandela made attempts to narrow the gap. He started learning Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created the apartheid. His comrades in the African National Congress (ANC) teased him about it, but Mandela wanted to understand the Afrikaner’s worldview; he knew that one day he would either be fighting with them or negotiating with them. Either way, his destiny was tied to theirs. This was strategic in two senses: by speaking his opponents’ language, he might understand their strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly. But he would also be ingratiating with his enemy. Everyone from ordinary jailers to P.W. Botha was impressed by Mandela’s willingness to speak Afrikaans and his knowledge of Afrikaner history.
How many leaders in the country are trilingual? How many people around us speak both Tamil and Sinhala? It is a very small number that actually speaks the two languages commonly spoken in the country. Many leaders fail to see the importance of learning the other group’s language. They think that since they speak Sinhala, they can connect with the majority and that is enough to secure the majority votes. Only a few Sinhalese leaders attempt to learn Tamil, the language of the minority in Sri Lanka. The Tamil leaders on the other hand are compelled to learn Sinhala as they need to use that language when negotiating and speaking with the Sinhalese leaders. The language barrier is a reason for segregation in the country. The majority will start to think that since their language is the most widely spoken in the nation, they are superior to others. The minority on the other hand starts thinking that they are inferior to others. This creates room for issues and leads to violence.
To solve most of the problems in Sri Lanka, the leaders, irrespective of their background, should have a sound knowledge of Sinhala and Tamil. When this is achieved, the leaders would face fewer problems in connecting and speaking with the other group. They learn to see the way the other group had felt all this while. When this happens, the leaders would understand the challenges the opposing group faces and would try and work joining hands with the formerly opposing group. It is after Mandela learnt Afrikaners that he understood that blacks and Afrikaners had something fundamental in common: Afrikaners believed themselves to be Africans as deeply as blacks did. He knew too, that Afrikaners had been victims of prejudice themselves: the British government and the white English settlers looked down on them. Afrikaners suffered from a cultural inferiority complex almost as much as blacks did. If Mandela had not learnt Afrikaans, he would have never understood the common ground and South Africa would still be fighting amongst itself. We can see the importance of learning the other groups’ languages which serves to create opportunities for unity among segregated groups.

Mandela was a lawyer, and in prison he helped the warders with their legal problems. They were far less educated and worldly than he, and it was extraordinary to them that a black man was willing and able to help them. Allister Sparks, a great South African historian defines them as ‘the most ruthless and brutal of the apartheid regime’s characters. But Allister realized that even the worst and crudest could be negotiated with. This feat was possible only because Mandela took the initiative and effort to learn Afrikaans. As future leaders, what we can accomplish now, is taking the steps to learn both Sinhala and Tamil. Though it might be hard in the beginning, you never know the benefits the nation can receive later because it has leaders who can communicate with both the Sinhalese and the Tamils equally well, leading to equality among the citizens.