By Jeevan Thiagarajah
The country has experience of three uprisings led by Youth since 1971.It led to loss of human lives irrespective of race. Healing from its impact is necessary to prevent future relapses. Any inability to respect the dead and grieve can remain a potent rallying cause for dissent. Families must deal with their losses privately.
‘Healing’ goes beyond the alleviation of individual traumas and includes the mending of the social divisions which exist both within and between communities. One aspect of this broader challenge is the healing of psycho-social traumas associated with war and upheaval. Cultural understandings of health, trauma and healing are important because the way people express and interpret their afflictions are very locally-specific. Post war-affected populations in rural SL may continue to draw on a wide range of traditional rituals to help them deal with the traumas of war and to open the way to reconciliation.
It is by means of spiritual understandings that people can restore meaning and a sense of balance to their lives following traumatic experiences. The Garden of Forgiveness in the heart of Beirut, Lebanon is designed to be a place of contemplation and reflection. It is inspired by the great human struggle to forgive, particularly in light of historic cycles of violence. It has many interesting aspects, some of which include: Members of many different religious communities within Beirut and Lebanon who include Druze, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, Shiite Muslim, and Sunni Muslim who participate in the planning and development, located in a site where at least fifteen different civilizations have lived,
includng Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Abbasid, Mamluk, Ottoman, French Colonial and Lebanese located directly over the heart of the Graeco/Roman city of Berytus surrounded by three cathedrals (Saint Georges Maronite Catholic, Saint Georges Greek Orthodox and Saint Gregory the Illuminator/Saint Elie Armenian Catholic) and three mosques, including the magnificent, newly built Mohammad al-Amin mosque. Near the middle of the garden lies the ancient shrine to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Light), where Muslim and Christian women had prayed at this location for centuries to bring miraculous healings, healthy childbirths, etc.
The process of healing as the LLRC did must have the hands of the multi ethnic character of SL represented in it. Such measures have been initiated by the Office of the President recently in determining the implementation process. The ability of the President to draw on the best available multi ethnic talent with the required specialized knowledge must be applauded. Unknown to many, he infused a multi ethnic character in the representations from SL in March in Geneva. Underlying it is the national character of the contributions, devoid of partisan considerations, though opposed by vulgar detractors who are willing to dare to oppose the Office of the President and the genuine inclusive efforts vital to put behind us the rancour and bitterness of recent history. The public face of the saboteur is one of liberal western democratic pluralism, masking the bigoted closet racist working to ensure we remain divided for the foreseeable future.
Notwithstanding such spoilers, as an initial step there are renewed calls, for the nation to collectively empathise with all victims of the conflict, whether civilian, soldier or combatant, belonging to Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or other communities spread over the life of the three uprisings. It requires a setting aside a day where people who wish to grieve and practice traditional rituals for their dead can do so in any part of the country with the strict condition that what is personal is not turned into a political tool for rousing any form of sentiment which threatens public security or inter- communal relations.
Bangladesh has such a day set aside to commemorate all who laid down their lives for Bangla language rights in the 50’s.Once, every year across towns and cities citizens walk barefooted from their homes to memorials to pay respects. A unique noble act, free of political considerations. We require something equivalent.