Category Archives: reconciliation

A few thoughts on Easter

About a year ago, a friend suggested that I watch the movie “Facing the Giants”.  One song from this amazingly inspirational movie remains in my “most played” playlist even to this date. To quote a few verses from this song which is titled “Completely”,

Such is the relationship that a Christian expects to have with God; a complete surrender unto Him who created us; an intimate friendship with Him who guides us through the toils and snares of earthly life.
Yet, being human, we falter along the way. Our weaknesses drag us down. Sin enslaves the best of us. Little by little, we distance ourselves from God’s unfailing love.
The season of Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives and turn back towards God. For forty days preceding Easter we engage in prayer, acts of penance, confession, fasting and other rituals to help us in this process. We commemorate “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
Today is Easter Sunday, one of the most important days in the liturgical calendar. It is a joyful day for Christians around the world as it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For Christians and non-Christians alike, it is a beautiful day in spring. As blossoming flowers and twittering birds delight your senses, let today be a day of hope and new beginnings. Let it be a reminder that it’s never too late to start afresh and set things right. On behalf of the “Written for Reconciliation” team, I wish a happy Easter to all believers! May the joy of the Lord be with you all!


Happy first year anniversary!

 Yesterday seemed to be a day of celebrations. Sri Lankans across the globe rejoiced: our beloved National Cricket team brought home the T20 world cup on Sunday!  More than the game itself, we rejoiced because the team made us realize the power of unity; the unity of a team and of millions of devoted fans which made us world champions.

 Meanwhile, a bunch of young people including me celebrated another event. It was exactly one year since Shailee and Vasika brought “Written for Reconciliation” into existence. Due to the efforts of the amazing people involved in it during the past year (Read more about it in Shailee’s words: , the stats of the various WFR pages continue to impress. 

Reconciliation is not an easy process, we know. Our hope is that our shared love for words will make a change, no matter how insignificant or unnoticeable this change may be. As we celebrate the first year anniversary of our blog, we would like to thank our dear contributors and readers for sharing this hope with us. We look forward to your valuable support in the journey ahead too.

සංහිඳියාව ලෙහෙසි පහසු කාර්යයක් නොවන බව අපි දනිමු. අපේ බලාපොරොත්තුව වන්නේ අපේ වචනවලින් සුළු හෝ වෙනසක් ඇතිකිරීමයි. අපේ බ්ලොග් අඩවියේ පළමු වර්ෂ පූර්ණය සමරන අවස්ථාවේ, අප සමග මේ බලාපොරොත්තුව බෙදාගත් අපගේ දයාබර දායකයන්ට හා පාඨකයන්ට අපගේ හද පිරි ස්තූතිය පුදකරමු. ඉදිරි ගමනේදීත් ඔබගේ දායකත්වය බෙහෙවින් අගය කරමු!

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A workshop held last year led to the creation of the blog, Written for Reconciliation. Here contributors spoke about the various aspects of reconciliation and how we, as the youth of the nation, could help understand and accept people regardless of their ethnicity or gender. Through this blog, the contributors themselves came together and accepted that reconciliation is easier said than done.

Harmony between various ethnic communities is not easy to achieve. It takes a great deal of understanding, tolerance and acceptance to love people or associate with people despite the different social backgrounds they come from. During a time when the country is full of so much hate and intolerance, a question that is constantly asked is; what part does the youth play in reconciliation?
The future of a nation is in the hands of youth. While adults are in charge of today, the youth is in charge of tomorrow. And today isn’t all that bright and sunny. It’s a time when people would rather hate than love, make war than peace. Thus, it is tomorrow that can bring about change. And tomorrow belongs to us.
Further, young adults have very little history to consider. Very few let riots and murders and battles decide on their behalf. Few are brought up in families that believe in the importance of the caste system, and the various classes of society. There was a time when a Colombo school was only for the wealthy, English speaking families. Today, the scholarship system allows students from the more ‘in the middle of nowhere’ villages to study in the same class as someone from a ‘Colombo Seven’ family. Today’s youth are not geared to discriminate or hate. We are taught to love and to accept. We are told of the importance of reconciliation.
Very few schools are strictly Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu or Muslim schools anymore. We studied with students who worshipped different gods, and followed different traditions. Race and religion were not deciding factors of friendship. While the ignorance of one’s history is not to be taken lightly, the youth’s lack of knowledge of our nation’s dark history, where blood has been shed mercilessly, is one of the main reasons the youth doesn’t give importance to ethnic differences. Our parents use their own experiences and memories to hate, but we have very little memories and experiences that will make us bigots.
Our complexion, accent, language, religion and traditions are not dividers. They are not barriers. And they should never stop one from doing what they love.

Today there are many youth organizations that work towards creating better environments for people to live in. Issues regarding the youth, but also the future of the nation are being discussed due to the interest in youth to be the change the country needs, and also due to the need of a stronger youth.
Adults often believe young adults shouldn’t interfere with adult matters. “You just learnt your ABCs. So what do you know about reconciliation?” Such attitudes discourage people, and silence many voices. Today, not many keep quiet while their rights are breached. Not many choose to suffer in silence.

This is why there are so many organizations that focus on human rights. Workshops, programs, projects are organized to spread awareness, develop leadership skills, and give the youth a platform to show they care. Further, there is a large number of blogs, sites and forums where youth voice their opinions. Reading the stories, articles or poems written by young people, who live ordinary lives, and who see the injustice around them, gives us all hope about tomorrow.
We are so pessimistic. We often believe the situation cannot be changed, that racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will continue. And instead of trying to change the situation, people tend to accept it. They think it is okay to hate if one comes from the North or South. They think its okay to hate if one speaks a different language.
Most of us have read some version of Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. Remember how Shylock is insulted by Antonio?

“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?”

This is one of the most important quotes of Merchant of Venice, and it perfectly captures the idea that after all, we are one and the same. And yet, we continue to distinguish one and another by skin color, race and religion. For years, African Americans were called blacks. Why? Because, they were dark in color. Somewhere, someone realized it was an insult, and instead decided to call non fair skinned people colored.
When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black
And you white fellow
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you gray
And you calling me colored?
The above poem shows that the labels and terms we give certain communities often lack a proper basis. Dark-skinned or fair-skinned, we all belong to a certain color, and have no right to call one white, black or yellow. We are beautiful regardless of our complexion.
Whether you are a Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, you have a right to the same opportunities, and you have a right to live. And reconciliation between ethnic communities will be possible only if the youth stands against the discrimination, hate and violence that people seem to encourage and indulge in with very little shame.

‘Tis the season to be… reconciled

“And all of this happened
Because the world is waiting
Waiting for one child
Black, white, yellow, no one knows
But a child that would grow up and turn tears to
Hate to love, war to peace
And everyone to everyone’s neighbour
Misery and suffering would be forgotten forever”
Thus goes the lyrics of the beautiful Christmas carol “When a child is born”. It embodies the message of Isaiah 9:6.
On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, this amazing child who would change the course of history with His teaching. As Christmas draws nearby, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping, preparations and general merrymaking. Yet, Christmas means much more than these materialistic trappings; it is a time to reflect, a time to give and a time to reconcile.
 Maybe Christmas is all about reconciliation. I think I first heard the word from the lines of a carol-“peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”. As the lyrics imply, it’s a time to renew our strained relationships with God; to return to His unconditional love; to thank him for sending His only begotten son for our salvation.
 Even though we usually limit it to family and friends, reconciliation between human beings is another important aspect of Christmas. Many Sri Lankans have the tradition of arranging a Christmas lunch or dinner for the whole extended family. Through all sorts of parties, cards or gifts we are actually renewing our relationships with one another. To quote a friend of mine “That Christmas reminded me that, love doesn’t belong to just one religion, or one race. Love isn’t a human thing either. There is love in us all, and it may take special days like birthdays and Christmas to show it openly, but love; it’s somewhere in our hearts.” It is heartening to see many people sharing this love by reaching out to the less fortunate too.

The story of Christmas has been told many a times over, be it through dramas, carols or paintings. Being in Sri Lanka, the soothing tunes of “kalakata pera e Bethleheme”, “Rajathi Rajamani” or “Silent night” pleases our ears alike. Yet the message of the story eludes most. To me, it is about the importance of a humble heart. He wasn’t born in a palace full of riches; a manger was his crib. It wasn’t the kings who received the news of his birth first; the angels sung it to poor shepherds who kept watch on their flocks. 
May the prince of peace be born in your heart this Christmas! The beautiful prayer of Saint Francis (listen) seems to be an apt ending at this juncture as it invites us to be an instrument of our Lord’s peace-not only this Christmas, but in each and every moment we live.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
ඔබ සැමට සාමය සතුට පිරි සුභ නත්තලක් වේවා! இனிய கிறிஸ்துமஸ் நாள் வாழ்த்துக்கள்! Merry Christmas!

Dedicated to a special group…

Perhaps the cause of reconciliation is more important to one group more than any other- the group of young lovers who come from different races. No matter how intellectually matching they are, the stereotypical attitudes and beliefs of elders forces many of them to strangle their feelings. Maybe it was unwise of those lovers to let feelings develop between them, yet “love is blind” as the saying goes.
This poem is dedicated to all those lovers who go down in the annals of time as war victims- similar to soldiers whose shrapnel wounds hurt them from time to time, their young hearts would ache with yearning long after they are forced to forget a person who was almost their “other half”.
Photo credits:
 “The cloak of insecurity,
Wraps its folds around me,
Shutting out the happy sounds,
Blinding me with tears,
Wiping the pretty smile off my face.
Everything starts to remind me,

Of you,

And all the good times we had.

Carefree were we with time on our hands,

Caressing each other’s minds,

Deep into the night.

Wit and laughter,
Giggling like an idiot,
Blushes spreading from cheeks to ears,
Growing rosy and mellow,
In the dull light of a screen.
Glowing like a star,
Though darkness threatened to overwhelm.
And overwhelm it did,
Not just one day,
But day after day after day,
The bliss that was once there,
A festering wound,
That took ages to heal.
Thousands of poems stored inside me,
Yet no one to understand,
Not even you, my darling,
You who understood me more than anyone.
Years down the lane,
Maybe you’ll be another dull memory,
Of a person I loved.
Towards the light at the end of the tunnel,
I’ll travel alone.”

Unity Camp 6: Killinochchi – The Experience of a Lifetime

Shortly after graduating from college in a great move by the universe I was invited to be a part of Ekamuthu Orray Makkal Unity Mission Trust (for those confused by the first three words; Ekamuthu’ is Sinhalese for ‘Unity’ and ‘Oray Makkal’ is Tamil for ‘One People’)

The Unity Mission Trust has been in existence since May 2009 and is a non-profit Trust that is dedicated to fostering unity, integration, healing and reconciliation between the teenagers and young adults in the Wanni area and their peers from all over Sri Lanka.

 This October from the 17th to the 20th I joined the crew that piled into 3 buses, 2 vans – as head of the Media and Publicity Team. 500 student leaders aged 15-20, and 40 teachers from 70 schools all the way from Jaffna to Matara gathered at Killinochchi Central College (KCC) for Unity Camp 6. The Camp works on the basis of separating the students from their friends and placing them in groups with others, some of whom don’t even speak the same language. Together they compete in drama, dance, music, art, sports, and speech, overcoming whatever racial barriers that might have separated them before. I am not going to launch into the details of the program etc – you can find out everything you need to know about what the kids did here. What I am going to do is try to articulate the feelings that stir the depths of your soul when you realize that 4 days can change lives, bring people together, that there is hope.

Being a part of the team that undertakes projects of such a scale is another experience in itself. Logistics for nearly 600 people to sleep, eat, and carry out the camp itself in Killinochchi took up much of the teams free time for months. This is an entirely volunteer run organization – not one of us who stayed up, sometimes past midnight organizing, packing, planning, doing files, raising funds – are paid. It’s done for a greater reason upon which no value can be placed. Then comes the day when at 5am we pile into buses and drive to Killinochchi with stops along the way to pick up people, stretch our legs and finally you arrive. No resting – 500 students need to be registered and the hall prepared for the opening ceremony, buses and lorries need to be unloaded, and students need to be prevented from switching groups. The opening ceremony runs with a showcase of talents and then comes the tough part – the students are placed in their groups and the organizing committee does some switching around to ensure they are mixed up as throughly as possible. There are tears and resisting, but we are firm. After the rules are reviewed and the students briefed, dinner is served. The committee has no time to rest – after ensuring dinner is handled, the girls round up the female students and chaperone them to Killinochchi Maha Vidayalaya where their sleeping quarters are. In the meantime the boys check to ensure the dorms and sleeping arrangements at KCC are sorted, and once the students are settled the team sits down for a meeting. Those not staying at either of the schools with the students head off to the army camps, which have been generously offered by the Sri Lankan Army to us. This is usually close upon midnight.

The next day begins at 8.30am after breakfast when everyone gathers back at KCC with a Music Session to get everyone in the mood, headed by our Musical Director Rukshan Perera. Over the next few days team members run non-stop working tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the numerous activities, challenges and mountains of work that comes with such a project. But through it all the most amazing experience is watching the students slowly form bonds with one another. They turn from the nervous, uncomfortable faced girls and boys that sit – near-silent, awkwardly smiling with one another, to hugging and crying on the fourth day when they are leaving. One has to see this with their own eyes to realize that four days can break barriers, that the youth has a lack of inhibition when it comes to embracing new opportunities and really are the hope of our nation.

The talent that comes from them blows you away. They sing, dance, act, create, speak, excel athletically, – all with just a few hours at most to prepare. Trophies are awarded to the most outstanding group leaders, campers, and based on a points system – a winning group emerges. But nothing touches your heart like the very end of camp. Students who speak about their experiences at the open forum begin to cry, overcome by emotion. They hug their new found friends and have to be nearly forced to board the buses. You realize that human connections are beyond language, race, religion, soci-economic backgrounds, gender, and any of these limitations we place upon ourselves.

You watch the candle ceremony and can’t hold back your tears when you see a sea of light shining back. This light is carried by remarkable young men and women who sing our national anthem with pride and then chant in one voice “Sri Lanka” repeatedly.

You realize that the future of our country has hope, the dream of one people is tangibly close to a reality.

You realize that you are a part of a much bigger picture – but what you can do in your small capacity can make real change. Sometimes we need to step out of our little bubbles and start releasing the potential we harbor.

We can do so much more than just talk, and more than can – we need to. The change we leave behind is the real legacy we leave. Not how popular you were, how much money you made, how big your CV and accomplishments were – but by how many lives you touched and transformed.

"And I went to Jaffna too…"

A recent rendezvous with my childhood book collection resulted in a wonderful discovery; a book titled “යාපනයට පාලමක්” (meaning “a bridge to Jaffna”) was nestling in the deep dark corners of my cupboard! I was transported back to that age when I voraciously read one adventure story after another. And I was glad that I read this book along with the usual “Famous Five”, “Hardy boys” and so on.  Authored by Mr. Gunasena Withana and first published in 1995, it speaks of the hazardous journey of 3 youths to the northernmost parts of Sri Lanka. I’m sure that those books I read, along with the ideas of my elders, shaped my thinking and helped me to “write for reconciliation” even though the details elude my memory. 
I also appreciate the fact that this author was “writing for reconciliation” in Sri Lanka even before some of us were born! His other books include “අයියාවගේ කෙනෙක්“(“some one like an elder brother”,1970), “සිංහල පියෙකුට දාව දෙමළ මවකගේ කුස උපන් පුතකුගේ කථා වස්තුව” (“the story of a son who was born to a Sinhalese father and a Tamil mother”,1987) and ‍”යාපනේ සීයා” (“grandfather from Jaffna”, 1992). It is also my humble wish that we would see many more articles and books written in Sinhalese and Tamil to shape the thinking of the future generations as well…