Transformation of a Peace Activist

Learning for change – respecting and accepting colleagues of Kilinochchi / Batticaloa
Campfire at Kilinochchi – Give light to all of us to Promote Peace
Sharing experiences and adding new learnings with colleagues

This is the story of the transformation of one youth participant in the Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation funded “Crossing Boundaries – Youth Groups Sri Lanka” programme. J.V Nuwan Chamara Chathuranga who is 22 years of age hails from Thalgampola in Yakkalamulla Divisional Secretary’s Division in Galle District. Nuwan happens to be President of Udana Youth Club.

He says, “At present, I can clearly distinguish myself as being a different person after participating in this programme. Prior to this change I hardly respected people from other ethnic groups. I was not very keen to even speak with them. I always saw them as “others” and marginalized them. Now, I am one of those people who respect the other ethnic groups and work for their wellbeing. “

“I got to know about this valuable programme from one of my friends. I joined this programme basically to learn the Tamil language. Gradually I learnt the basics of Tamil language. After joining the Tamil language class I got an opportunity to join in the first programme held in Mattakkuliya in Colombo. Initially we were not very enthusiastic about this programme. The first exercise we had was getting to know each other. We communicated with other participants who belonged to various ethnic groups and got to know their names, hometowns, future aspirations and other facts. We used Tamil language to express our selves but had to use English as well. By the second day we were able to build up strong bonds with each other. At the end of our programme we were able to learn lot of Tamil words and also gathered lot of experiences. However at the end of the programme we found it even difficult to say good bye to them.”

“The second programme was held in Thalahena. There we learnt a lot about peace and reconciliation, co existence and conflict
resolution. We also got an opportunity to learn about each other’s skills and weaknesses. One of the important things we learnt was how to maintain a peaceful society free from conflicts.

“After this programme we joined the youth exchange programme held in Kilinochchi where all three groups from Galle, Batticaloa and Kilinochchi participated. At this programme we gathered a lot of experiences about lifestyles, livelihoods, culture and the difficulties faced by the young people in these areas. The programme helped to get to know each other and build up strong bonds. In addition, during the four days we managed to improve our Tamil language ability a lot. At the end of the programme not only the participating youth but also their family members were strongly attached to us. As the next step of this programme there was a youth exchange programme with Muslim youth in Eravur, Batticaloa. We learnt a lot about their culture, laws and food patterns. We also participated in various entertainment events, Sramadhana and other activities. Just like the Killinochchi youth the youth in Eravur had close relationships with us. The opportunity we got to improve our communication skills is also invaluable. “

“As the last step of this programme, Tamil and Muslim youth joined in the youth exchange programme held in Galle. They gathered so many new experiences just like what we experienced in Kilinochchi and Batticaloa.”

“The experiences I gathered from these programmes made me become a different person. I realized that the cause for various conflicts in our society is not the way of thinking of various ethnic groups but the way of thinking of the politicians. In future also I will do my best to promote peace and co-existence.”

At present Nuwan is studying at the University of Uva Wellessa in its Faculty of Agriculture. Whenever he returns to his village he makes it a point to maintain relationships with his fellow participants spreading the message of peace and reconciliation and actively helping in managing conflicts. O~ course he will be engaging in similar activities in the University Campus as well.