Today I learnt that Sri Lanka has it good compared to the extreme struggles and conflict some other countries go through. The Youth Peace Ambassador’s shared their stories and the situation in their countries. I was fortunate enough to hear their stories first hand and I think it’s important that the world knows some of these stories too, so here I am about to share them with you.
Lilach from Israel lives 40km from the Gaza Strip. Lilach, her family and neighbours face the terrors of missiles and bombs on a daily basis. She know that it’s not good for this to feel normal, but that is the reality, this is the norm. They also have shelter’s that protect them, since they are so close to the Gaza Strip they have to run to the shelter’s within 15 seconds. Added to this constant state of conflict, every Israeli has to join the army at the age of 18. Girl’s must serve in the army for 2 years whilst boys serve longer.
Dolapo from Nigeria gave us an insight to the high level of crimes in Nigeria. Something that shocked me was the easy access to guns and ammunition. She explained that even teenagers had access to guns and would use them when required. The existence of Shell and other multi-national oil companies has made the idea of a sustainable development, especially in the Niger Delta, a myriad. Although as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility these oil companies provides funding for the community, these has in no way translated into actual development and youth employability. Sometimes for example, the youth would sabotage Shell’s operations until they give them the money they ask for. This easy access to money has increased the level of youth insurgence, violence and conflicts and limited the thinking of youth to the short term only. They don’t realise that long term success depends on education and building something concrete and secure for yourself.
On the other hand Victor Mutanga from South Africa shared with us the plight of the Tonga people. They have been marginalised to the point where they don’t benefit from any of the developments and don’t even get electricity. And the occasional vehicle they would see is the Coca Cola truck once in four months. Victor was also a victim of Xenophobia and is now working towards achieving peace through tourism with the ‘International Institute of Peace through Tourism.’
This is just a fraction of the examples of the growing situation of crime, violence and war in the world. The list is endless from child soldiers and child pirates to women trafficking and even sport (athlete) trafficking. In contrast to this Sri Lanka is blessed, we have overcome a civil war, now all we have to do is forget our differences because what we share in common is far greater. It’s time to leave the past behind and unite as one to rebuild our nation.
In his presentation to us Steve DeVoss (President of Global Sports Partners) reminded us that as youth we have the power to make a difference. He used the Congo Proverb “The drummer doesn’t know how far his sound will reach” to emphasise that we should use our intensity to express our passion for peace.