Sri Lanka: Empowerment in Youth Education

The war in Sri Lanka has ended but conflict and trauma has not. Many communities are left with war scars — physically and emotionally. But how can we rebuild a country that are broken up by ethnicities, religions and trust issues?

It begins with the youth. The younger generation is not responsible for the past, but they have been greatly affected by it and they also have the ability to heal its effects. Historically, tensions within Sri Lanka were primarily between ethnic differences: the Sinhalese Majority and Tamil Minority. Now a days tensions have shifted towards religious differences. But in order to prevent the same-types of conflict from re-occurring in the future, we must practice both conflict prevention and peace-building practices.

Personally, I believe that rebuilding peace between communities is possible through an educational approach amongst the youth. I would like to propose that schools have some kind of textbook reformation with classes that talk about the recent civil war, even if it may be a little uncomfortable. This aids the conflict prevention aspect. There needs to be an open-space for discussion and understanding why it happened. Focusing less on pointing fingers and more on what caused it. If we can learn to approach ethnic and religious differences, we can learn to be more culturally sensitive and understanding towards each other which prevent arising conflict in the near-future. Religion classes could also help children learn more about each other’s cultural beliefs in a respective manner, that shows there is no right or wrong. There is only difference, but difference is okay and it is possible to live in harmony through mutual respect and acknowledgement.

As for peace-building practices, the funding of extra-curriculars would be very beneficial in improving relations amongst those of different ethnicities and beliefs. This doesn’t have to be limited to only children, but programs should be established for individuals of all ages within the communities. Many children affected by the civil war lost their opportunity for education and employment (Generations For Peace, 2015). Therefore, this would be a great way to help them reintegrate into community building practices, that they were never able to experience due to the war.

The establishment of a community center could help communities be brought together through group outings, sports, art classes, choir groups, etc. For instance, Generations For Peace created a Sports For Peace “programme for youth in.. the worst-affected districts [of] the war” that aimed to “build relationships and encourage interactions among youth of different ethnicities” (Generations For Peace, 2015). Students would have positive experiences with other cultures, contributing to the peace-building of communities in Sri Lanka.

As for stakeholders, I would like to reach out to some non-profit groups that are interested in developing education for World Peace purposes. I would also like to personally reach out to my CONF340 Professor Romano, whom have had much experiences in the Conflict Resolution Industry for guidance and his opinion on the matter.

By creating a strong foundation, it will take some time but Sri Lanka can slow build itself up into becoming a strongly diverse and unified country. We cannot erase the past, but we can build a new future together and that begins with the youth.

[Generations For Peace]. (2015, Feb 5). Youth Empowerment – Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka | Generations For Peace. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmBNEwTyH6s

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