Some 35 young Tamils from the north and 700 students from the south, around 14-16 years of age, took part in a “peace and reconciliation’ programme organised by the National Peace Council (NPC) in cooperation with several schools, religious groups and civil society associations.
The event took place from 6 to 10 December and saw participants relay stories and stage representations about the war as well as perform songs and music that reflect their distinct ethnic and religious backgrounds (Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist).
NPC Executive Director Dr Jehan Perera told AsiaNews that after years of “polarisation in society, meeting face to face is important to break barriers. Kids from Jaffna staged a theatrical piece in which they described the last days of the war, a war that people in the south never saw because of censorship. This way kids from the south could understand what those in the north had to suffer. At the same time, the young people in the north could see that those in the south did not hate them, but wanted to be one with them.”
“Now there is talk of peace in Sri Lanka, but this is not the peace we seek,” NPC President Joe William said. We need “trust among ethnic groups and religious communities; trust between parents and children. Only this way can there be real peace.”
Dilhani Mudannayake, a student from Kotte (Colombo), was positive about the recent exchange. She said, “Let us hope we can meet in future again and that there will be real peace without barriers.”
For young Tamils from northern Sri Lanka, there is great need “to be free to go anywhere in the country and speak freely. We need for young Sinhalese to come and visit us.”