Following the recent Presidential election, with its record turnout and peaceful transition, Sri Lanka showed the world that it truly is a democracy that has never been stronger or more inclusive. Although Sri Lanka has made immense progress, certain divisions remain in its society and are primarily fuelled by ignorance and fear. Often the first way people identify ‘us’ from ‘them’ is through a person’s name. Although people may look and talk alike, and have the same values, their names can differentiate and even divide them. Using this insight, Connect Lanka decided to launch the #unitedbyname initiative as the second phase of its ‘Love-Not Hate’ campaign, which strives to fight discrimination and foster mutual respect, unity and acceptance throughout Sri Lanka. The #unitedbyname initiative asks people to find the names of other Sri Lankans in their own names and express their belief in diversity and equality, by re-writing their social media profiles to incorporate both these names.
The ‘Love-Not Hate’ campaign was launched by Connect Lanka on Independence Day in 2014. The campaign focuses on promoting a peaceful coexistence and harmony amongst communities. As part of the second phase of ‘Love-Not Hate’, the #unitedbyname initiative was launched to encourage people to embrace a name from another community, in order to show their acceptance of different ethnicities and religions.
A close look at people’s names reveals that a single Sri Lankan name can actually have other names in it-even the names of people from other communities. For example, Madhuka has Madhu, Araliya has Ali and Natasha has Asha. There are many more examples of this and that is why names instead of dividing people, can also be used to unite them.
There are two ways that you can participate in the initiative. Firstly, find the other name within your name (preferably the name of someone from a different community or ethnicity) and change your profile name accordingly on Facebook. If your name is Amali, which also has Ali, then change your profile name to Am-Ali by adding a dash between your own name and your other name. Once changed, visit the #unitedbyname Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PledgeLoveNotHate and share your post with others (make sure to make the post public). Do not forget to tag #unitedbyname while posting as this will help measure the effectiveness of the initiative. Secondly, if you don’t have another name within your name or if you want to help promote the initiative, simply share a post about #unitedbyname on your Facebook page.
Officially launched on 1 March 2015, #unitedbyname hopes to get as many as 10,000 people to participate in the initiative by 21 March 2015, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination. Though primarily focused on social media, because of its widespread use, the initiative also includes a variety of activities that bring together the public and private sector, in an effort to increase people’s participation in the initiative and raise awareness about the importance of unity. Connect Lanka’s hope is to get people from all walks of life involved with this phase of the ‘Love-Not Hate’ campaign, including dignitaries, well-respected members of the community and high-profile personalities.
Commenting on the initiative, Nishue Hassim, a Spokesperson from Connect Lanka stated, “The #unitedbyname initiative was launched to put an end to discrimination, and to help people from all communities and ethnicities in Sri Lanka, to develop a greater acceptance of each other. The initiative uses names which are personal forms of identity to unite people. The simple act of incorporating someone else’s name into yours is a powerful symbol of respect and acceptance, and by taking this concept online, we are able to reach thousands of people and create awareness about the importance of unity. This initiative helps to address the issue of discrimination in Sri Lanka and it helps to dissolve the barriers that exist between different communities. I would like to invite members of the public, organizations, companies and government offices, to participate in the initiative and I hope that we will achieve our target of reaching 10,000 people by International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination on 21 March 2015.”