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The Dansala of Inspiration

Vesak 2012

Pic by Rushda Mohinudeen

What comes to mind when you think of Vesak? I am sure you’re reminded of observing sil, going to the temple and worshipping, the jathaka stories, the stories from life of Lord Buddha, the importance of the Dhamma etc. I am sure that thoughts of making Vesak koodu (lanterns) at home, of the lavishly lit thoran (pandols) and dansal will run on the fringe of your mind as well.

Whilst the religious activities continued throughout the weekend, where many visited the temples to observe sil or to engage in the Dhamma, at night, the country was up in lights and music. Throngs of people walked on the roads or got in to trucks to go see Vesak. To enjoy the massive thoran which depict stories from Lord Buddha’s life or to enjoy food from a dansala.

Speaking of Dansal, the only thing that comes to a Sri Lankan’s mind is food! Various kinds of food, be it a hot meal of rice and curry or ice cream. However, this year Beyond Borders gave the word dansala and its concept, a whole new meaning! Working on the lines of inspiring, Beyond Borders decided to have an ‘Inspiration Dansala’ whereby distributing quotes from the Dhammapada, to the general public making the people more aware of the meaning behind this religious celebrations.

Making of the BBites Dansala board

Joining the people on the streets of Colombo, the guys and girls from Beyond Borders gathered near the Gangarama Temple to spread the inspiration to the people. With a few hiccups at the start, the distribution of these quotes had a lovely response with some people coming behind the energetic team asking for more sticker quotes, or asking for translations!

A rather blurry pic of the BBites distributing… inspiration!

Even though our team was a little hesitant in getting this going, we felt welcomed by the response from the people. The overall experience was overwhelming!

Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

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The Sacred Vote

We visited a community of Northern Displaced IDPs in Puttlam recently. This was part of our Peace and Governance initiative, an effort to improve cohesion between youth and the entity we call Governance.

We had 3 discussions in course of our visit; the first was with a group of youth, the second with a young provincial council member elected to Jaffna and the last was with a few officials and community representatives from the Community Trust Fund.

Their problems are complex and community discourse has reached a fever pitch with the war ending and the possibilities of relocating to their old homes becoming a reality.

But we found yet another issue that mainly was faced by the youth; young people are facing an inability to act upon their right to vote. Most youngsters who have left the territories before the age of being eligible to vote have not received their voting registration forms yet.

So we got together with a bunch of other young people and wrote a letter to the Elections Commissioner about it. A lot of much more useful work has been done in this regard of course by organizations like CPA and CTF. We heard that the elections commissioner was due to release a circular enabling them to vote during this election, but are yet to find out what came of it.

A casual report on our discussion with the IDP youth can be viewed here.

Bringing down the sun

That’s the name of the song done by Paranoid Earthling for the World Peace Day 2008. It’s youtubed for your viewing pleasure:

The video comes from the Young Asia Telivision Youtube channel, who is now putting out some quality material up there. BB is also on youtube, if anyone wants to subscribe.

“Myth Vs Reality” – East

Recently, In August visited the eastern province (Ampara and Batticoloa), on a work assignment for four days. Since most people tend to say that “the east is very volatile and it’s not safe to travel”, etc, I thought I will write a short post about the myth Vs reality on the east.

 

Speaking about Ampara, I would say it is a very calm and peaceful place to than ever to live in. For those who don’t know where Ampara is, it’s surrounded by Batticoloa, Monaragala and Hambantota and does not have a link in the national railway line. The A11 main road runs across Ampara linking Monaragala, Ampara, Batticoloa and right up to Trincomalee. Ampara having a population of over 600, 000 (source) has a growth rate of 0.5% and the most amazing statistic is that the population density being 145 persons per square kilo meter. The administration is being looked after through 20 divisional secretariats in Ampara. More information is in the site linked above.

 

Ampara being a huge area has only two main check points along the A11 main road (the only check points visible at the time of the visit). Having an urban population of over 20% Ampara has a relatively large and busy town (as busy like fort). Except for the fact that Ampara doesn’t have a very strong ADSL network (which I guess is not very important) every thing in this large town is sufficient to live a peaceful life. The farming infrastructure is massive in here. They use machinery than any thing else to work on fields.

 

Shops tend to operate from 7 in the morning till around 9 in the night without any hindrance. Ampara also being a hub for certain bus routes, have its own area with huge service canters at one end of the town. Ampara also is the stop of most of the NGOs and INGOs travelling and working in Batticoloa as it has the facilities for most of their needs (lodging, food, shopping, etc.). Most of the UN regional offices are also housed in Ampara. Ampara is also equipped with a huge library facility and a huge ground right in the centre of the town.

 

You would actually find people moving very freely every where in Ampara with out any issue or being stopped at check points asking for the national id and etc.   

 

Speaking about Batticoloa is a little bit different from Ampara. Bordering Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa and Ampara is having a population over 500,000 with a growth rate of 1.7% and a population density of 198 persons per square kilo meter.

 

Batti is very much different from Ampara. Having check points at every entrance of the different divisions (mind you guys there are 14 divisional secretariats). Batticoloa having a urban population of 25% you will still never find people on the streets after 7 in the evening. Shops normally open around 10 in the morning and go on until a maximum of 7 in the evening. So basically the streets are empty after 7.

 

As I said yes, there are a lot of check points, but most of them are there for the sake of having them.  The police is very powerless in terms of civil engagements. So it’s the STF who does handle stuff in Batti. Having said that I recall seeing different types of uniformed people having had weapons with them. You would find the police in their regular uniforms, then the village security officers in maroon, then the STF (well there are two groups of them, serving two different parties. One is the government and I assume that you guys know the other party whom I referring to), the army, the navy and the civillian forces with weapons (I assume that you guys know whom I referring to).

 

Having had all of them, they still do not have regular checks and all, but still you have the liberty of travelling from one end to the other even here. One thing I would say is to be cautious of the motor bike riders. It’s like the mosquitoes in the evening. So many bikes riding at very high speeds levels without helmets (I honestly don’t know what will happen in case of an accident) is seriously something you need to be very careful of.

 

There are different types of traditional and local food available here. You would actually love the food here. Well most of them are non-vegetarian stuff, but you could actually find a lot of vegetarian food as well. I also got the chance to visit few of the places of interest such as the Batticoloa Light House (this was rebuilt after the tsunami by the USAID), some beach (I actually can’t recall its name) and some food joints.

 

Being in Ampara and Batti gave me a totally different experience, which I will never forget in my life. For those who have not been to these places, my advise is to go visit them before its too late.

 

– Nooranie Muthaliph

 

Nooranie is the General Secretary of Beyond Borders and blogs at “the ultimate change” The views expressed here are that of the author, not of Beyond Borders.

Peace One Day

 

Peace One Day Football match Colombo. September 21, 2008

Peace One Day Football match Colombo, Sri Lanka. September 21, 2008

September 21st is the International Day of Peace. The story of one British film maker’s quest to make that day be accepted by the United Nations is an inspirational one. His organization, Peace One Day, tries to create global awareness of the day and promote individual action for peace throughout the world September 21st every year.

As part of its efforts, the Peace One Day group organizes the “One Day, One Goal” Initiative which invites people in all countries to come together play a football match as a symbolic celebration of unity, coorporation and power in bringing people together.

The match in Sri Lanka was played between Colombo International School and an Independent football team on the 21st of September 2008 at the York grounds, Colombo. CIS won the match 6-3.

Beyond Borders helped facilitate the event, we think that symbolism has it’s place. Some More pictures are to be found on our flickr.

Peace One Day : Sri Lanka Youth Decleration

Peace one day is a concept by filmmaker Jeremy Gilley. He was at a musical concert, when Jeremy had an idea: what if there was one day when the world stopped fighting? A worldwide ceasefire – a non-violence day? A Peace Day? After years of work Jeremy finally had his wish in 2001, when the UN general assembly unanimously adopted a resolution for for formally establishing an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence as the UN International Day of Peace on September 21st.

This year, on September 21st, a group of young Sri Lankans want to celebrate that this by launching a Sri Lankan youth deceleration in solidarity with the Peace One Day initiative . Following is an excerpt from the formal document:

Through the voice of young people, we reaffirm the faith in fundamental peace and prosperity for all, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women regardless of race, creed, colour or social status.

We bring to the forum a process of meaningful reconciliation, constructive dialogue and change for a positive Sri Lanka. [..]

Throughout history, young people within Sri Lanka have always played a major part in shaping the continuing story of this small island. As the keepers of this responsibility, we reaffirm our right to be heard and counted. In spirit of this, we put forward our vision for a constructive peace and a progressive Sri Lanka.

This day and declaration is the manifestation of such ideals.
In true strength of democracy our ideas are open to criticism, compromise and inclusion

You can contribute your views to the Sri Lankan Youth declaration by answering a set of questions set by the organizers and emailing them to: chat[at]sancyaustralia.com.au.

The document with the list of questions can be downloaded (pdf) (Ms Word) and emailed to the organizers or completed online. For more on Youth Deceleration visit the organizers’ blog or their facebook group. For more on the Peace One Day initiative, visit their web site.

Activiating Youth

First appeared in the Sunday Times Mirror Magazine on 30th March 2008.

One in every six people in the world is a young person. And all over the world, young people almost always have been the first to speak out on issues that are affecting them, and their communities. Be it in the form of a silent protest, an uprising or a publicity stunt, youth activism is seen as a key component in an active and vigilant civil society.

We spoke to a few of Sri Lankan young people who are active in the social sphere of youth activism. Whilst some of them explicitly identified the work they do as youth activism, some were in the opinion that they are simply “doing something they like.” Some see youth activism in Sri Lanka as being limited to an elite group, who are from the urbanized areas, who have had a privileged education etc., who are the offspring of individuals who are active in the civil society movements.

Bimsara (26) was of the view that youth activism in Sri Lanka is either non-existent, or is short lived. She went on to say “Even the ones who get involved, do so for a short period of time or with very limited activities.” The main issues which young people in Sri Lanka focus on are seen as issues like employment, as they are more heartfelt, personal issues and some of the youth uprisings in the past are generally tied to issues around employment. “Young people are active or aware that they can play a role at the policy level.”

A few initiatives are visible in Sri Lanka as examples of youth activism. One such organization is the Beyond Borders project. This was initially founded as a project by an international organization working in Sri Lanka, but today has evolved into a completely youth run voluntary body. They work on issues ranging form sex education to conflict studies, all under the main theme and objective of promoting active global citizenship. Beyond Borders project takes on a direct approach, with most of their efforts focused on action instead of policy. They also use new media such as blogging and alternative media such as forum theatre in reaching out to the communities. More information can be found at their frequently updated blog (this!)

Deane (21) whose passion lies in liberal economics, does not see himself as a youth activist. “I just do what I like doing.” And his view is most young people are motivated by what they do, and do not see it as “activism.”

Another example of young people working on social change, is the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament. Regarded as Sri Lanka’s first youth-led, youth-run initiative, SLYP works under different areas of action, with the final goal of creating a cohesive Sri Lanka. This organization differs from the Beyond Borders project, as SLYP has access to national level policies, and has contributed to various policies relating to young people. The approach SLYP incorporates is a self-empowerment process for young people, where the young people themselves are the social change agent. They are in the process of organizing the second cycle of action, having completed two years of active social change. More information on the Youth Parliament can be found on their website

“Its young people today who will take over tomorrow. Therefore it’s important that they have a sense of social responsibility about what’s happening around them,” said Sachith (20), whose passion includes environment and global warming. However, he doesn’t think the level of engagement in Sri Lanka is adequate. “I don’t think we can be proud of the level of involvement”. His view is that more awareness is needed in young people, and that some young people tend to ignore issues affecting them. Talking of the socio-political environment, he’s of the opinion that young people are seen not seen as partners, but are expected to remain dormant. Young people are usually seen as the leaders of tomorrow, but they are now also playing a part as partners for positive social change today, taking control of issues which affect them, and working for the betterment of the society as a whole.

By Pink Boxing Gloves.

The Role of Youth in Sri Lanka

The one question that I have always wanted to address is, what really is the role of Sri Lankan youth? Depending on our social positions, the ideas instilled in us differ. As some of us know, if you are a member of the Colombo society, generally the trend is to receive a good education, complete our SATs and go abroad to finish our studies and start a life and job in another country. This is a type of norm since parents don’t want to see their children suffer with the rising taxes, loss of job opportunities, and the current war still raging in our beloved country.

In most rural areas however, children receive education only till they are 16 years of age maximum. This is because of several reasons, the main reason being poverty. Since most jobs available in the rural areas such as craftsmanship, farming and fishing enterprises, do not pay well, nearly all families are forced to live below the poverty line. This in turn causes children to drop out of school at an early age, regardless that primary and secondary education is sometimes provided, to help with the financing of the family.

I see the position of our youth like a cycle. It’s true that there are many upheavals, but collectively, we follow the footsteps of those before us. That’s why i asked the question what the role of Sri Lankan youth is? In other words, what do we contribute to our country? We all know that our country is in debt, and not only are we accountable, but so are the generations to come. We also know that there are still people who lost everything in the tsunami, still living in tents. The war in the east which no longer seems to be an ethnic conflict, is still active killing thousands of soldiers and children on either side. There are still people displaced from their homes due to this conflict. Children are lacking education, which might help them live a better life. Many people, including graduates are unable to find job opportunities. And democracy in our country is sometimes non-existent.

All of these problems are very real, and very current. And it is important as youth, and as members of the next generation to look after ourselves, look after others, and most of all, take notice when such problems arise. We should know when to follow in our the footsteps of our predecessors, and when to make our own path. In my personal view, the role of Sri Lankan youth is to do our best, individually and collectively, everything in our power and resources to make our country a place we all would be proud to live in. This attitude is important, because it could make all the difference. After all, we are the next generation.

– Manisha Hannan

Manisha is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders and many other things. Her  pastimes include teaching and appearing in theatre productions.

Oblivious to the suffering triggered by the people of my kind!

Palestine SufferingThe new day dawns so pretty, the sun shines so bright
I woke up to the ceiling, knowing something was not right,
Sat up with a jolt, knowing I had slept in late
Mom shouted “breakfast’s ready”, but I simply could not wait
The studio lay wide open, for me to read the news
To work I rushed at speed, not a moment I could loose

A stack of papers lay before me, microphone pegged on my shirt,
Another day at office to wash off my people’s dirt
I blurted “things are fine, the Palestinians are living well”,
My conscience knowing better that, life for them was a living hell!
No food to feed their stomachs, no medication to treat the sick
No power to run their houses, no fuel to light their wicks

My eyes are open to their suffering, but my lips continue to read…
…the propagandistic notes which they expect me to feed…
…to the people of the world, to keep them groping in the blind,
Oblivious to the suffering triggered by the people of my kind!

“Click” goes the remote, far away on a person’s hand,
A news story greets him, “reports” from the blessed land
For the reporters each word attention strict he pays,
Never thinking beyond his lies, of the suffering Palestinians face
At the end of the news story, which so freely he had bought
“The plight of my fellow people (he thinks), is not bad as I once had thought!”

So “click” goes again, the contraption in his hand,
Let’s watch something “cool”, broadcast on another band
Each song and dance he watches with hands clapped on with glee,
That movie was so “touching”, the match was a delight to see
Oh have we become such fools, to become such easy prey…
to the schemes that have been devised, by the folks who plan our day…
…to be spent in fun and games while forgetting the others plight,
Another day thus ends, as to bed he makes his flight

Hand-cuffed we stand so weak, before our masters this “worldly wealth”,
As the evil schemers plan, to bring us down in stealth
This tune if you bear, throughout your life my friend
Their plan will overtake you, and seal your fateful end!
So obey your lord almighty, and help your brothers in need,
Your “duties” do it proper; to the prophets pay good heed
Keep sowing the seeds of love & remove the weeds of vice…
…and book your ranks in heaven, a man destined for paradise!

-Muwahhid Riza

“How we see Sri Lanka”

As part of the recent Peace Camp in Wariyapola, we asked the kids to group into their home districts and work on a mural along the themes of how they see Sri Lanka at present and their hopes for Sri Lanka’s future. Here are some of the results,

Kandy and Nuwara Eliya districts.

nuw

These guys and girls seem to wish for a more equitable and a cohesive Sri Lanka in the future.

Trincomalee district

trinco

The guys from Trinco seem to be wishing for religious harmony leading to progress which is impeded by a war waged in the name of peace.

Gampaha and Hambantota districts

gam

These guys seem to be more concerned with the escalating “Cost of Living”, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the spider web means.

Monralagala, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala districts

ku

These young people seem to want peace and denounce violence.

The Kids in Touch Peace Camp was a joint initiative by the British Council and Sarvodaya. the camp was facilitated by Beyond Borders.

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