On a day like today, on the 7th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, I ask you:
“Who counts as human? Whose lives counts as lives? And finally, what makes for a grievable life?”
– Butler, 2004
This should be a day of solemn remembrance, not a day of celebrations. For how do we celebrate the many thousands of lives, all lives, that were lost during the 30 years of the conflict?
Yes we can remember the day we could breathe a sigh of relief that it was all over, but we should remember this day solemnly, not for the messy politics of the war, but for those lives that were lost, and for those families that carry that pain to this day.
I condone the move made by the government of Sri Lanka to call off ‘victory day celebrations’ and instead have a day of remembrance where we will remember this day respectfully. One more step towards reconciliation.
Yesterday the Youth Peace Ambassador’s were out in the streets of London (Stratford Olympic Park and Central London) conducting a survey to determine the figures of how many people have actually heard of the Olympic Truce. We went around asking people if they have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 1035 respondents only 59 have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 600 British respondents 3.8% have heard of the Olympic Truce, whilst 8.3% of the respondents from 69 other countries have heard of the Truce.
These results go straight to the point we were trying to make before, it is quite disappointing that The Olympic Truce has such little significance. The other day, David Wardrop – Chairman of United Nations Association Westminster said: “You can’t have an Olympic Games without having an Olympic Truce. We’re only celebrating the games because the Ancient Greeks decided that sports are greater than war.”
One of the main learnings of today was the importance of finding common ground to promote peace.
Dolapo Fakuade, UNESCO Looking Beyond Disaster & Peace Ambassador emphasised that an important factor for peace is finding common interests, this is what brings us together. At most instances people tend to look at the negative, focusing on differences rather establishing what we have in common.
Dolapo gave us an excellent example of how mutual understanding created a truce which has been on for the past 10 years among two Yoruba Tribes in the Western part of Nigeria.
The Ife-Modakeke conflict which was going on for more than a century was devastating not only for the tribes but to anyone who tried to cross the area. People were killed, schools closed and inter-married families were broken.
Today was the first day of the UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training in which I’m representing Sri Lanka. The exciting part is that at the end of the 9 day training I would be appointed as a Youth Peace Ambassador.
So let me give you some background on the whole purpose of this training initiative. This was first and foremost organised to promote the Olympic Truce and make it more meaningful and to also come up with action plans to promote the Olympic Truce for Rio 2016. The Olympic Truce is a call for six weeks of global peace from the start of the Olympics to the end of Paralympics. And I feel extremely privileged to be a part of this exciting initiative.
Today the Youth Ambassadors’ met each other for the first time, there were representatives of Israel, Iran, Nigeria, Gambia, France, South Africa and England. We were also expecting youth from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Somalia however due to not been granted visa on time they couldn’t make it.
We met with Lord Michael Bates at the House of Lords to discuss the Olympic Truce and learn from his amazing determination in promoting peace. He tried very hard to get the government and Olympic Officials to promote the Olympic Truce in a bigger way since the Olympic Truce was a central part of the Olympic Games and the real reason for the Olympics. There were discussions about it and the UN resolution declaring the London 2012 Olympic Truce was signed by 197 countries. Months before the resolution was passed Lord Bates had the idea of doing something more, something that required a lot of physical and mental determination.