Building Resilient Communities
The ending of the war was seen by many as a paradigm-shifting moment in the country’s history. But more than four years since the end of the war Sri Lanka remains a troubled nation. New forms of conflict are emerging along with new majority-minority configurations. This project seeks to address one such conflict/configuration—Sinhala-Muslim relations in post-war Sri Lanka. Extremist Sinhala Buddhist organisations, initially a Colombo-based urban phenomenon, has spread the Sinhala-Muslim conflict with alarming rapidity to other parts of the country and has taken on a national dimension. These organisations have been able to garner large-scale intra and inter-class support for their activities and their emergence and the rapid growth suggests that there is a complex underlying dynamics at play.
The project attempts to both understand this emergent phenomenon better and intervene to create productive dialogue between the two communities using innovative techniques in two districts in Sri Lanka: Ampara and Galle which represent multi-ethnic and multi-religious areas that have witnessed recent violent confrontation.
By creating the space for narrativising one’s experiences through the innovative use of grassroots video, comic and cartoon productions, this project hopes to promote civic dialogue at a very basic level where ordinary people talk to each other across ethnic, religious and linguistic divides through stories. These narrative dialogues in turn will be highlighted at the national level through media and will also feed into publicised inter-faith and inter-ethnic civic dialogues conducted by eminent personalities.
Given the macro-scale realities of the Sinhala-Muslim conflict, the grassroots activities will be simultaneously accompanied by formal civic dialogues with various influential individuals and community organisations to address the systemic and institutionalised nature of the emerging Sinhala-Muslim conflict. The project also includes a research component that will generate historically, politically and economically nuanced insights into the Sinhala-Muslim and inter-community conflict in general in Sri Lanka, since the current cycle of conflict is little understood and needs to be looked at in relation to the major institutional, economic and societal shifts Sri Lanka is experiencing in the post-war period. The project commenced in November 2013 and will continue till October 2016.