Background Information for
Commonway Team Members
|HISTORY OF SARVODAYA
· Started by A. T. Ariyaratne
· Spiritually oriented self-help development
· 40 year history
· Mobilizing tens of thousands of people to create homes, wells, village banks, etc.
· A clearly non-Western approach to development.
· See Sarvodaya website for more information: click here: Sarvodaya
OF SRI LANKA CONFLICT
· Sri Lankan population: about 19 million. At a density of 260 people per km, one of the densest populated places on Earth.
· Three ethnic groups on island:
· Sinhalese largest, (75%) in the center, west and south. Center of kingdom was Kandy. Sinhalese primarily Buddhist.
· Tamils next, (20%) in the north and east. Tamils primarily Hindu. Aligned with Tamils in India.
· Veddas smallest, a Stone Age group in the center.
· Three groups lived in relative peace for centuries. Original name for island, Serendib, meant “place of happy occurrences”.
· Roots of present conflict (as with most present ethnic conflict on the planet) was in colonization.
· British colonization threw together two very different cultures, without providing any means to reconcile the differences. The only common denominator between the two cultures was the British culture. At one point, the British forcibly moved tens of thousands of Tamils from their traditional base in India to the center of the island, the heart of the traditional Sinhalese kingdom.
· British withdrew from Sri Lanka at same time as Indian independence, leaving the same culture and power vacuum that the Indian sub-continent has experienced.
· Added to the conflict caused by colonialism is the pressure toward urbanization, caused by changing world economic structures. Millions of people gravitate toward cities, where they hope to find “jobs” and a better life. Most are disappointed. (Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, and (I believe) the highest for women.)
· Lastly, the Sri Lankan conflict is fueled by the fact that “men with guns” exploit any societal conflict. While there are people on both sides of the Sri Lanka conflict that honestly believe that warfare will solve their problems, there are others who recognize that the continuation of conflict is the continuation of their power. They have no intention to resolve the conflict; they continue in power by maintaining the conflict. In order to resolve the conflict, alternative pathways to power must be found.
· Ethnic conflicts generally have atrocities on all sides; the Sri Lanka conflict is no different. Acts of terrorism (by both the Tamil Tigers and the government soldiers) have polarized both populations and clouds the search for peace.
OF COMMONWAY INVOLVEMENT
· My involvement with Sri Lanka and Sarvodaya began with reading about Sarvodaya leader A. T. Ariyaratne (known to his friends as “Ari”) in the book, “In the Footsteps of Gandhi”. I was particularly struck by his defiance of death in the face of assassination attempts. People referred to him as “the living Gandhi”.
· I traveled to Minnesota in 1996 to meet him. We struck up an immediate personal connection.
For more information on Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, click here: Ari Biography
· In 1997, as part of a round the
world journey that included Russia, Germany, Indonesia and New Zealand,
I visited Sri Lanka. My initial visit was supposed to last two weeks,
but was extended to four weeks.
“CREATING AN ISLAND THAT WORKS FOR ALL”
Goal: Commonway will support the peace initiative in Sri Lanka by:
· Conducting an overall assessment for the prospects of peace on the island
· Providing overall logistical and management support to Sarvodaya
· Providing philosophical grounding, theory, strategies and tactical advice to Sarvodaya on its peace initiative.
Need for Commonway:
· There are many different organizations involved in peace work in the world, including Sri Lanka. These include: Peace Corps, Witnesses for Peace, Quaker Peace Services, etc.
· Commonway supplies a needed conceptual viewpoint and a track record of resolving conflict among parties who are defended, hostile and adversarial. The Commonway approach is based on the philosophy of inclusivity, a spiritual (but non-religious) knowing that all our lives are inextricably linked, that whatever is done to one is done to all, and that the search for peace has to be based in the notion that all parties to a conflict have to “win”.
· Commonway will learn much about how to create a “field of peace” that will eliminate the support for war and violence. How to apply spiritual techniques, including the richness of all cultures, to the practical challenge of ending conflict.
· Development of Commonway “teams”:
· Through the “team approach”, Commonway can offer more advice than just Sharif alone.
· Commonway “teams” can develop and enhance Commonway leadership training. Experience on the Commonway “team” to Sri Lanka would move the Commonway leadership training beyond the theoretical into practical application. The team methodology will make the Commonway approach more visible.
· The ideal Commonway “team” would be 3-5 individuals with the following expertise:
· Organizational management and development
· Conflict resolution training and background, including experience in “hot” conflicts (including coordinating volunteer support, strategic planning and evaluation)
· Public relations, promotions and media support
· Documentation of the peace initiative
· An ideal Commonway “team” member would have:
· A blend of spiritual outlook and activism in the world
· grounding in and commitment to inclusivity
· grounding in and commitment to “the advocacy of the whole”
· conflict resolution experiences, especially in “hot” (violent) conflict
· cross-cultural experiences, especially in tropical cultures
· cross-religious experiences
· prior work with Sharif and/or in Sri Lanka would be a plus
Fall '99 Visit:
The plan for the Fall Visit was to do an assessment for peace and provide assistance for Sarvodaya. Sharif worked for four weeks; team members for between two and four weeks. Work included a visit to the northern conflict zone (this was considered extremely hazardous). Dates in country were from mid-November to mid-December.
Sri Lanka is a Third World country. A significant shift in perspective was required for one to survive and thrive in the environment.
Sri Lanka is in the midst of a civil/ethnic war. That war is obvious in the number of military checkpoints one encounters. While the South and East, including the area around Sarvodaya headquarters, is relatively secure, with no obvious fighting going on, team members were each responsible for their own security and were advised to take prudent precautions with their personal safety (traveling in groups, knowing where they are going, precautions about money, etc.).
Basic Costs of Fall Visit:
Team members understood that the Fall Visit was an opportunity for service and to gain valuable experience in inclusivity and conflict resolution.
Summer 2000 Peace Initiative
It is assumed that the Commonway Team members would return to Sri Lanka to work in the Summer 2000 Peace Initiative.
|Return to top of page|
|Return to Projects and Activities Site Map|
|Return to Sri Lanka Overview|