Our journey for lasting peace
As a teenager, I would impatiently wait for my father to return home after work – because we did not know where the next bomb would go off. Buses, trains, buildings – nowhere was safe.
For most of my life, I lived in a country that was grappled with war. People lived in fear. Some were affected more than others. Some lost their homes. Some lost their loved ones. Some lost their lives. Some lost everything. And I was among the lucky ones – the least affected.
The war ended in 2010.
But over a decade later, the question still remains – do we really have peace?
I believe there is so much more we must do to heal the wounds of all communities. I may not have all the answers, but my growing passion for contributing to sustainable peace and reconciliation led me to engage with Class 32 as a Rotary Peace Fellow from Sri Lanka.
The Rotary Peace Fellowship has helped me learn more about peace and conflict studies. Twenty of my classmates from 13 countries – over 15 weeks were guided by extremely wonderful and skilled mentors and lecturers who imparted their knowledge to us.
We learned about peace, conflict, and security – how vital it is to create inclusive communities in peace, security, and development building. We learned about conflict prevention and about world leaders and the strategies they used to prevent conflicts – what worked, what failed and that we have a long way to go. We learned about the importance of change leadership in a turbulent world, non-violent movements, human rights and social justice. We learned more about the conflicts we knew and conflicts we did not know about, we discussed how tragic some stories were and how they could have been prevented, and we learned that in war – no one wins.
But this is not even the best part of the programme for me.
The incredible changemakers I met through the class were the highlight of this experience for me.
A group of strangers met virtually and transformed into friends over the weeks. From Africa, Europe to the Middle Ease, Asia, to the Americas – when we shared our stories, we found that, although miles apart – how similar our challenges were. How are relating to each other’s experiences. From peace practitioners to humanitarian workers to teachers and law enforcement officers – I was truly amazed by the difference we all are making in our communities and the world.
I was inspired by the stories shared by my peers to protect children, empower youth and women, be inclusive of the marginalized, to promote social cohesion among different nationalities and religions. Coming from different countries, with different experiences, we all had one common goal – a passion – to make the world a better place.
In a world where sometimes all hope seems lost, this experience has given me hope – hope that there are people out there filled with empathy and kindness who will do whatever they can within and beyond their power to uplift vulnerable communities and be catalysts for peace and development. They go the extra mile with the hope that in the years to come, no child will has to worry about losing their parent or a parent losing their child to a bloody war. A world where we all live in a society of nonviolence, where equality prevails, and we only find respect and strength in our diversity. And, we are united by our passions and dreams of a peaceful and just world.
Dishnika Perera – Sri Lanka
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32