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 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.
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.