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"Notes from the Field": 
   Journal Entry # 8: 
Setbacks to Peace 
 

Week Five:  Setbacks to Peace

Things are going from bad to worse here on the island.  I don't know if you're following the news, but last week a Sinhalese mob broke into a prison holding former LTTE fighters and killed 26 of them with knives, clubs and setting them on fire.  When the Tamils in the villages hung white flags of mourning, Sinhalese groups have attacked them, killing Tamils on the streets and burning Tamil shops.  This is taking place up in the hill country, some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth.  The poor fighting the poor for the rights to the bottom of the barrel.

Needless to say, this has been a major setback.  Throws a pretty big monkey wrench into our careful planning.  Most of my peace work has been based on the assumption that the fighting is between LTTE and the Government.  We assumed that there would not be a return to "Black July" in 1983, with over  10,000 Tamils dead in a month of communal rioting, and millions fleeing for their lives to India and beyond.  (To its credit, the Government sent in troops and imposed a curfew to quell the rioting.  The President went on national television and appealed for calm and to distance the government from the killings.  None of this was done in 1983.)  [note: the above figures are incorrect: see the subsequent journal entry.]

Sarvodaya is making some initial plans for a “Rapid Deployment Peace Force”.  We already have 77,000 young men and women trained and dedicated to nonviolence and village development.  In past years, Shanti Sena has assisted with disaster relief and conducted “Amity Camps”, bringing young people from different ethnic groups together.

The challenge of a Rapid Deployment Force is how to deliver a significant number of them to a flashpoint in a short period of time.  This takes training, communication, logistics, food, shelter and organization.  It takes a particularly strong focus on nonviolent tactics, since these young people will not have any weapons.  I am laying out the framework for such a force.

On another front:  we are strengthening and re-publishing the Sarvodaya Peace Plan.  One of my goals is to strengthen the graphics.  If anyone out there knows of a graphic designer who would like to volunteer a few hours of time in the next two weeks for a worthy cause, let me know.  (This is one of the situations where we can work in cyberspace, without the necessity of visiting the island.)

That’s it for now.  I’ll share more in the next few weeks.

Peace,

Sharif
 
 
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