LEADS together with TearAus and James Ivanhoe have successfuly completed a reconcilliation programme that links the North Eastern and North Central regions of the country. This programme culminated in a historical event that dreaw a large number of people from four different villages.
In 2014 LEADS launched a pilot project in Janakpura and Kokkuthuduwai villages in Mullaitivu District to enhance the interaction between the Sinhalese community in Janakpura and Tamil community in Kokkuthuduwai villages through reconciliation interventions.
Some men, women and children from the both communities in Janakpura and Kokkuthuduwai depicted their hidden leadership qualities through dynamic interactions, higher level of engagement and enthusiasm. It was expected to utilize the capacities of these dynamic individuals as ambassadors for reconciliation through below mentioned programme.
Reconciliation Ambassadors will act as Reconciliation Agents. It is expected they will convey their lessons and experiences on identity conflicts, ways to overcome wounds of painful histories and discrepancies due to norms and values to the communities who have issues and disparities related to diversity.
The Event took place in the Dhakshina Bodhi Viharaya temple premises in Gurugodalle of Aluthwewa GN. The event received the support from Thalakola Wewe Piyaratne Thero the chief incumbent of the temple. While the men set up the campfire, lighting and seating arrangements the women from the different ethnic groups got together and started to prepare the dinner. Most women had brought their young children. Some infants were nestled at the breast and fed intermittently. In such communities it is not unusual that young mothers are treated naturally. This helps them take part in social gatherings such as this and ensures they are not ostriced from the rest of the community. Meanwhile capable women got around the main task of lighting the fire and cooking. The meal was going to be simple but sumptuous one.
The programme included some important speeches, traditional lighting of the oil lamp and lovely dances performed by children of the host and visiting groups. The village priest appreciated the occasion organized to celebrate peace and harmony. The Grama Niladari talking at length explained how the event was organized. The entire community was served with dinner. Some had second servings obviously realizing the delicious taste of the cooking by the village women. Satisfied with a full meal people gathered around the campfire. There was very easily over a hundred, children included. Their faces shone brightly in the light coming from the fire. The people enjoyed till early morning the next day, engaged in joyful singing, dancing, funny stories and games.
Some of the women spoke with us. “I am happy to be part of the visiting group here in Polonnaruwa. I have never come here before. This gave me an opportunity to mingle with my brothers and sisters. We may belong to different ethnicities but we share the same passion. We want to see our families, our villages prospering” stated Kamalawathi from Kokuthuduwai. One local woman Anula also expressed herself. She said “there was a time we lived in immense fear. But now we have overcome our grief and loss. We are not angry with the Tamil or Muslim people”.
Later some of the participants expressed their views: the occasion lead us to experience harmony between different ethnic communities. Usually this is not possible in our normal settings as our own villages are predominantly Sinhalese, in the case of others mostly Muslim. We are grateful for the support given to us by LEADS to organize the programme. We take home valuable lessons on peace. “Speaking to our brothers and sisters we understood that our similarities outnumber our differences. We know some of them have fought in the 30 year battle on both sides. They worked during the height of war” she added.