Of all of the things I have done over the past eight weeks, my favorite activity has been listening:
Listening to the HHR staff and their stories of growing up in Jaffna, Batticaloa, or the Hill Country.
Listening to Sri Lankans for their opinions on the conflict, human rights, and politics.
Listening to the HHR staff educate me on the conflict in Sri Lanka. In reality the situation is far more complicated than the commonly portrayed duality of “Government v. LTTE” or “Government v. Rebels” or “Sinhalese majority v. Tamil minority.” I am only just beginning to understand all of the factions and political parties that play a role in prolonging the conflict.
But my favorite activity of all is listening to the survivors.
I met one of them today. She has a gorgeous smile. She is so petite. I can’t imagine anyone hurting her, nor can I imagine the inner strength she must possess.
I have read dozens of reports of destruction, death, torture, killings, and other human rights abuse. Yet I haven’t even scratched the surface.
I know that many people do not see an end to the conflict. People think it is a cycle and it will go on for years to come. One of the HHR staff told me sometimes he wants to scream from frustration.
I have seen people come into the office who want nothing more than to leave this country, and understandably so. So many people want, and need, to seek asylum and escape Sri Lanka. People have family members who have been killed and now they fear for their own lives or the lives of family members.
When it all seems insurmountable, listening to someone who overcame the unimaginable is amazing and inspiring.
I know news reports from Sri Lanka tell stories of suffering, all of them true. The latest one from Reuters talks about how people “have had to adapt to a two-decade war.” The image portrayed is that people are cowering in corners, dashing from building to building, afraid to be out in the open.
That is only half of the story. Sri Lankans are also survivors, and the girl I met today is a brilliant example.
I wonder if she knows how amazing and remarkable she is. I wonder if she considers how few people could have even survived, let alone conquered, as she did. I am not sure that she does, and I didn’t know how to tell her. I asked her about her day and said I was glad to meet her.
Then I just listened. I didn’t understand a word of her conversation in Tamil with one of the HHR girls. And I didn’t care.
Posted By Madeline England
Posted Jul 30th, 2007