September 2023

Victim, Affected by Violence or Bystander?

When it comes to wounds, injuries or injustices of the past, different words carry similar meanings; the commonalities lie in what experiences change in individuals, groups or organizations in the future. Therefore, the past has to be dealt with before looking to the future.

During an exchange programme for Civil Peace Service (CPS) coordinators, participants from Guatemala, Colombia and Liberia visited Sri Lanka. Coming from countries where truth, reconciliation and peace processes have been initiated, attempted and implemented, a mutual learning took place looking at what might be possible in the Sri Lankan context.

NPC staff attended the exchange programme in Sigiriya. During a visit to Ibbankatuwa, an ancient burial site, questions of remembrance were raised. While Ibbankatuwa is considered one of the several ancient burial sites that have been found in the country, not all burial sites are treated with the same level of acknowledgment. The government continues to refuse investigations into mass graves, which many believe contain the remains of the forcibly disappeared in several conflicts.

Remembrance, justice and acknowledging past conflicts affect people and countries in many ways. In Colombia, the death toll of human rights activists in 2023 was 111 and counting.

Participants were asked to write down one word for what made them think and what made them happy. Words that came up most frequently were solidarity, exchange and hope, indicating a positive outlook of peacebuilders towards the future developments in Sri Lanka.