Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka: How, What, Why?

At our last Sunday meetup, after assigning everyone with content work for our 2011 documentary for the social empowerment of Sri Lankan women – we had an awesome discussion about Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.

How much do you know about it, as a young person living in a modern Sri Lankan world where Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burgers get along just fine, for the most part?

We made a brief trip to our country’s past, back through the bloodbath of 1983, through the changes in our Constitution, through British colonization, through what happened before that – and back. We tried tracing back the origin of the different ethnic groups: where did the Sinhalese, Muslims, Tamils, Burgers and their different sub groups originate? Then one of our members worded it best when she said Sri Lankans today are ethnically “a total achcharu” thanks to marriages between different ethnicities and settlers from different countries.

The civil war is over, but is there a residue of conflict left among different parts of this ‘achcharu’ today? Have different ethnicities of Sri Lanka found closure from a past of racism, war and murder?

What about the roles of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, and the Sri Lankan Government, in reconstructing ethnic harmony in the country?

Most importantly, can Sri Lankans today, regardless of ethnicity, move past the past and celebrate their achcharu-ness? If not, as the case may be for some, what is standing in the way?

The topic is vast. Parts of it are controversial, facts often contradicted by conflicting opinions, and some would rather not talk about it and just put it aside, ‘let the government and the IDPs deal with that problem.’

But we think it’s very important that every intelligent Sri Lankan (many of whom are ignorant of the country’s ethnic issues, especially in Colombo) needs to educate themselves about what the country went through, to get here, in order to play an active role in its reconstruction.

The discussion is an eye opener, believe me. You’ll see things through the eyes of people of different backgrounds and lifestyles, and perhaps through it, we’ll find a way to break down the divides that may exist between different ethnicities, or at least produce creative ideas to work towards that.

Right now, since Reach Out was initially founded by a handful of Muslim members – we’ve got a majority of Muslims in the discussion, and that won’t do. We need diversity for a balanced and more productive forum.

Join the discussion. Whether you’re Muslim, Tamil, Sinhalese, Burger or whatever (although preferably one of the last three since we’re short on those! :P) – we need your say. We’re still learning the facts ourselves, reading up on history and contemporary views, so you don’t have to be some big activist to say what’s on your mind.

Listen to different perspectives, have a cupcake, voice your opinions – all that jazz, this Sunday (though this forum will probably go on for a couple more Sundays). Call 0773786505 to RSVP.

What do you think? Any ideas of your own about directions in which the forum should go? Tell us on a comment here, and spread the word with our poster above.



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