Calamities unite people. In a world dominated by social media networks, the unity to help more people is more apparent than it was before.
Over 200 lives were lost and thousands were displaced a few days ago due to incessant rains which resulted in floods and landslides in several parts of the country.
People once again united to help the victims. Help arrived from all corners of the island. But what is more touching is when a group of youngsters from the former war-affected Mullivaikkal volunteered to collect money to be sent to those affected in the South. These youngsters, who belong to the Society for Co-Existence in Mullivaikkal in Mullaitivu, went from house to house to collect some money to help their brothers and sisters affected hundreds of kilometers South.
Mullivaikkal is no ordinary place. It is the site where 30 years of bloodshed reached its climax. Many died getting caught in crossfire. Many lost their loved ones. Many were disabled, and some went missing.
For them, the past eight years have been a time of agony, anxiousness, and negativity. But, most of them have moved on with time, leaving their past behind.
Sabarinayagam Antony (43) is the head of the Society for Co-Existence in Mullivaikkal. The society consists of youngsters who lost their loved ones and everything they had. They managed to collect a sum of Rs. 80,000 for the flood and landslide affected people in Ratnapura.
Antony and this group of youngsters are focused on eradicating the bitterness among people through the message of love.
“We need to connect the North and the South through love. That is what we are trying to do,” he said.
The entire country knows the impact of hatred and war, and Antony lived through that for 16 years of his life.
He was a former combatant of the LTTE who was with the organization from 1989 to 2004. He was again forcibly conscripted by the LTTE and was released following several pleas by the family.
Born in Trincomalee in 1973, he moved with his family to Mullaitivu in 1989 and joined the LTTE. “I have seen what hatred brings to us. That is why we need to make sure that both communities should not look at each other with distrust and doubt,” he added. Residents hesitant
Collecting money for the cause was not too easy for them. There were some residents who did not want to be part of it.
“They were sad that everyone in the South celebrated the end of the war but had forgotten to sysmpathise for the people who were in the middle of the fighting. But we convinced them stating that the people of the South too have lost families and wealth in the floods and we should not turn a blind eye,” he said.
“We should respond negativity with love.” According to Antony, all these years, Sri Lanka had lacked a genuine gesture which helped bringing communities together.
For years, Sri Lanka has been divided. Whether there was war or no war, Sri Lanka’s communities were divided based on their ethnicities, or their religions. However, it was the differences on their ethnicities that came to the fore and which snowballed into a fully fledged war, dividing us further.
Eight years after the war, Sri Lanka is yet to reconcile in its true sense. There is no war, and it seems quiet. But it does not mean there is peace.
A household would seem quiet and peaceful, even when those living in it do not see eye to eye and do not talk to each other.
Visiting the South
The members of the society will be visiting Ratnapura this week and meet with religious leaders of the area to handover materials bought with the money collected. Minister of National Co-Existence, Dialogue and Official Languages, Mano Ganesan will be coordinating the process.
“This is a very noble gesture which should be encouraged,” he said.
Two way process
Reconciliation is always a two way process where both sides need to communicate, understand, and accept each other for a long-term, healthy relationship.
Shirani Wickremanayake and a group of friends have been silently helping those affected in the North, expecting nothing in return. They have started day care centers in several parts of the Wanni and have also built many wells for the families affected by war. “You don’t have to wait for someone else to start helping. Every individual can help. It starts from the heart,” she told the Nation.
Their stories are inspirational. Such acts should happen more. It’s up to the individual to decide whether to help or not. But, if one does want to, do not wait for someone else to start for him or to join.
Be the one to start.