Thirty years of war and the eight years that followed the end of fighting has resulted in the biggest challenge for Sri Lanka in the form of reconciliation.
Yes, it is the most commonly used terminology in the post war scenario, but achieving it is no easy task.
Over the years, many programmes and plans were proposed, discussed, and implemented in order to ensure that the country does not go back into the darkness it was a few years ago.
One key aspect which was discussed was reconciliation. But it takes a lot of time and effort to address this aspect of peace-building, especially after a 30-year-old war.
The first objective is to look for aspects that are common with both communities. They are not hard to find. The languages we speak have many words that are common to both.
The Sinhala – Tamil New Year is round the corner and the entire country is gearing up to enjoy the holiday season.
Unlike other events, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year is unique since it brings together people from the North and the South to celebrate.
Though both communities have been celebrating the event for centuries on the same day, somewhere along the line, Sri Lanka has forgotten to realize the importance of the day in reuniting the country.
Even during the 30 years of war, the Northerners and the Southerners celebrated the New Year separately in their traditional ways.
It was a time when Sinhala and Tamil were together on calendar. Yes, there were Sinhalese and Tamils living in other parts of the country, especially in Colombo. But, the fact that they lived in the same region did not translate to unity.
They spoke to each other, they played together, and shared many moments. But there was still that tinge of suspicion which separated them.
Those outside Colombo did not have the luxury of moving with other communities. They were aliens to each other, who just knew that they existed.
In 2009 the war did come to an end the roads to the North were re-connected to the South. But did the people reconcile?
Opening up of roads
Though the roads to the North are now open, the question is that whether there is reconciliation in its true sense.
Thousands travelled to the North as post war tourists. But, travelling as tourists will not create that environment where people understand each other.
This year too we get to celebrate the New Year as a peaceful country. We do know how each community welcomes the dawn of the New Year.
But, knowing alone is not enough.
We need to understand the communities. We need to understand the reasons behind the traditions and rituals. Each community should be aware of the reasons behind their customs and rituals.
The main reason for the continuous gap between communities is the lack of understanding. In many cases, this aspect of reconciliation is overlooked unintentionally while some deliberately try to avoid it.
These aspects should be taught at school level. There are schools which include students from all communities. But, there are also schools that only have students belonging to specific communities.
Some are of the view that there should not be separate schools for specific communities because they would only result in segregation and could be harmful for reconciliation. It may be true.
But there is no harm in introducing a system where students of these schools are taught about other communities. That is the true essence of unity in diversity.
Let this New Year be special where we learn something new. We don’t need the government to teach us about other communities.
Go out, look around, talk to the people who do not speak your language and absorb what you see and feel with an open mind.