The universal language of sport

Four years after the end of the bitter civil war that devastated Sri Lanka, sport is proving to be a universal language for building peace between Tamil and Sinhalese communities.

Sport for peace training
Generations For Peace, the Jordan-based international peace-building organisation which has been working in Sri Lanka since 2007, boosted its programmes in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with a sport for peace training in Vavuniya, on 22 - 25 August. The training brought together 31 Tamil and Sinhalese volunteer youth leaders, divided by language and ethnicity, but sharing a passion for using sport to heal the scars of conflict between their communities.

To support the difficult post-conflict transition for youth in their communities, the training provided new skills to run carefully facilitated sport-based activities. These activities use sport’s universality, fun and energy to engage youth to work together over time to break down stereotypes, change mentalities and begin to build understanding between ethnicities.

Quotes from participants
Gardi Geethanie, one of the volunteers from Eastern Province participating in the training, explained: “I am a believer in building relationships and bridges with everyone in spite of the differences and difficulties we have been through. This training will certainly help me do more in my community because I live in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic community. I know that the skills I have learnt will be very useful and that I can do something to make a real change.”

Dinesha Suppiah, Programmes Officer at the Generations For Peace headquarters in Amman, also from Sri Lanka, commented: “This training and research visit gives these amazing volunteers skills and confidence to lead change. It was a chance to meet and work together, which they are doing without barriers, and they will now continue to work together on programmes in their own communities in October. The powerful sport-based techniques they have learnt will help them to promote tolerance and trust, and to bridge these conflict divides.”

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]
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