For over 30 years, Sri Lanka was torn apart by ethnic strife. Now, after the ceasing of hostilities, we look forward to a new era of peace, stability and prosperity. The absence of war, however, does not guarantee long lasting peace. Prejudice, mistrust, and racial animosity aggravated by wounds of war remain deep within the psyche of our people.
For a long lasting peace there needs to be a healing of wounds, a coming together of the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankans, irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States addressing the League of Nations said: ‘Friendship must have a machinery. If I cannot correspond with you, if I cannot learn your mind, if I cannot cooperate with you, I cannot be your friend, and if the world is to remain a body of friends, it must have the means of friendship, the means of constant friendly intercourse, the means of constant watchfulness over the common interest …”
Likewise, reconciliation in Sri Lanka needs strong engagement between the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities especially here in the UK. You and I can do so much to encourage openness, good will, dialogue, and understanding among our Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim brethren. We can help to build trust and gradually remove the barriers that divide our communities. This is why ‘WE SRI LANKA’ was conceived.
WE SRI LANKA has two key dimensions. The first is ‘Reconnecting’, and I salute the VfR team for supporting WE SRI LANKA 2011 on this front with their path breaking work in promoting cross-ethnic dialogue. The second thrust is to support various partners on the ground in the on-going ‘Rebuilding’ effort in the North and East of Sri Lanka, hence the theme, ‘Reconnecting & Rebuilding for Reconciliation.’
Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character, and not by the colour of their skin, the vision for WE SRI LANKA is a nation where all her children would be judged by the content of their character and contribution, and not by the language they speak. I close with the last 3 verses from ‘The Call of Lanka,’ the soul stirring ode to Mother Lanka by Rev. W S Senior, Vice Principal,
Trinity College, Kandy, 1906-16.
But most shall he sing of Lanka
In the bright new days that come.
When the races all have blended
And the voice of strife is dumb
When we leap to a single bugle,
March to a single drum.
March to a mighty purpose,
One man from shore to shore;
The stranger, becomes a brother,
The task of the tutor o’er,
When the ruined city rises
And the palace gleams once more.
Hark! Bard of the fateful future,
Hark! Bard of the bright to be;
A voice on the verdant mountains,
A voice by the golden sea.
Rise, child of Lanka, and answer
Thy mother hath called to thee.