Civil society in Sri Lanka faces the imposing challenge of cultivating the growth of alternatives to the status quo within a society where the state wields near authoritarian control interrupted only by a constant threat of violence from non-state actors. With every jolt of indiscriminate brute force, alarmed citizens and community groups shout warnings as society drags closer to a sheer plummet into measureless brutality; but these fearful words only seem to echo hollowly back from the abyss ahead. Perhaps the leaders who urge the country to this precipice have already gone over the edge following the illusions of their own words, with the mass of society only hanging on through the inert strength of combined passive resistance. How then for those who remain to take the first uneasy step back from the edge in unison?
An aspiration to share stories and connect with others persists to burn within people, who cautiously seek a safe space to commune in this precarious situation. Sharing stories that give witness to history carries not just a concern for personal safety, but also the more unnerving possibility of collective reprisal falling upon loved ones. Avowed enemies seem to act in collusion to keep the people’s memories of the past submerged and distorted in darkness; perhaps apparent recognition of these memories transformative potential. Their equal use of self-serving half-truths of oppression and terror seeks to obscure their own complicity while propagating an ominous fear of turning back from the present road to oblivion.
Yet within people the inexorable human desire to live together in peace remains strong; keep alive by a belief in commonality and compassion that holds hope for a shared future. One step in the right direction might be a concerted effort to collect, preserve, and share personal testimony from throughout society to reclaim the right to an open and sincere common history. Society will without a doubt need many following footsteps on the daunting journey to achieve a community at peace.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Dec 16th, 2007