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Sri Lanka’s violent conflict is in its 18th year of existence, with no resolution in sight.  Our country is not divided by territorial frontiers, but by boundaries in our hearts and minds.  Our lives are changed forever by the trail of death and destruction this war leaves in its path.  Lives of the young, the old, those who could have helped build our nation -- no one has been spared the brutality of this violent conflict.  The victims of the war are not just the dead, not just the maimed, not just the orphaned and widowed -- the victims include all the rest of us who have been psychologically and spiritually scarred.

Sarvodaya has always approached development and peace as an inseparable and integrated process.  In August of 1999, Sarvodaya embarked on a new initiative to bring peace and reconciliation to this war torn country.  Under the guidance of its founder and leader, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, and with the participation of over 170,000 from all walks of life, Sarvodaya launched its People’s Peace Initiative with a massive peace meditation.  This event marked the beginning of a series of peace activities around the island, from regional peace meditations to economic, social, cultural and participatory democratic actions that address the long-term conflict related issues.

In August 2000, Sarvodaya published its "People's Peace Plan" authored by Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne.  This document, the "Peace Action Plan" expands and elaborates on his work. The result of intensive exploration and discussion, the Peace Action Plan outlines the specific steps that Sarvodaya will undertake to operationalize the People’s Peace Initiative.  I sincerely hope that this will guide the thousands of Sarvodaya workers and volunteers, and the millions of Sri Lankans who want an end to violence.  I hope that you, the reader, will join us in creating true, lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

May all beings be free from suffering.

May all beings be well and happy.

May all beings be at peace.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne
Executive Director






The problem is not LTTE or the Government.  The problem is VIOLENCE and the conditions that nurture and support it.  The Sarvodaya goal is to eliminate war and violence from our consciousness: TO MAKE WAR UNTHINKABLE.

Sarvodaya is an organization with an over 40 year history of an integrated approach to development, peace and spirituality.  At present, Sarvodaya is active in over 15,000 villages throughout Sri Lanka, with all ethnic, cultural and religious communities.  Sarvodaya is in a unique position to end the war and bring peace to Sri Lanka.

Since 1958 Sarvodaya Movement has consistently strived to prevent violent conflicts. After 1983 July riots the Movement launched the 5R (Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Reawakening) Programmes in response to the increasing communal tension and violence in the country.
Presently, the Sarvodaya operations that focus on peace issues include Shanti Sena, which organizes over 77,000 youth into "Peace Brigades" and "Amity Camps", Sarvodaya Legal Services, providing assistance in conflict resolution, and Vishva Niketan, a facility which teaches peace through meditation.

In August of 1999, in the face of increasing hostilities between the government and LTTE, Sarvodaya launched its latest People’s Peace Initiative with a massive peace meditation, attended by an estimated 170,000 people in the Vihara Maha Devi Park, Colombo.  We believe this to be the decade's largest peace rally. This Peace Meditation has been followed up by eight subsequent regional gatherings, attended by five to ten thousand people each.  We estimate that over 215,000 people have already attended a Peace Meditation.  We will continue our peace activities until we have brought authentic peace to Sri Lanka.


The Goal of Peace
 The civil/ethnic war in Sri Lanka cannot be “won”.  The government cannot “win” the war.  The LTTE cannot “win” the war.  All they can do is continue it.  This war cannot be won; it can only be transcended. In order to transcend it, there must be a change of consciousness on all sides. Sarvodaya is in a unique position to end the war and bring peace to Sri Lanka.  Sarvodaya can help Sri Lankans transcend the war, for the good of all.

Why a 500 Year Peace Plan?
When most people first hear about a peace plan that spans five hundred years, their first reaction is to laugh.  No country on Earth does planning that long term.  It’s hard enough to get a society to think one or two years ahead -- 500 years seems impossible.

However, after reflecting a moment, most people realize that peace is not something that happens at a peace conference, or with the signing of documents.  The effects of war goes on for many, many years past the end of the war itself. Sometimes, the conflicts of war fester underground for 100 years or more, then erupt in a continuation of violence.

The seeds of the present conflict in Sri Lanka were planted 500 years ago; it will take at least that long to correct the damage.  Around the world, from Bosnia and Chechnya in Europe to Vietnam and the Philippines in Asia, we can see countries trying to deal with the long-term legacy of war. The Sarvodaya 500 Year Peace Plan acknowledges the long, hard path to true peace and takes concrete steps to bring about true peace.

Goals of the Sarvodaya 500 Year Peace Plan

End the War in Sri Lanka
· Transform the consciousness of war
· Mobilize grassroots efforts to end the war
· Redirect the conversation about war and peace -- redefine the war
· Revive mutual respect and trust among all Sri Lankans.
· Break the stalemate in thinking that leads to continual war
· Coordinate, network and form linkages with all parties
· Participate in peace talks
· Bring authentic peace to Sri Lanka
· Change the climate of war to a climate of peace.
Remove the Effects of War from Sri Lanka
· Conduct healing and reconciliation campaigns
· work with all victims of the war, including the combatants, their families, civilians, children and others.
· Link the peace process to Sarvodaya’s overall village development
· Actively build bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil people, as well as all other ethnic and religious groups.

Details of the Peace Plan

· Actively resist all acts of violence, no matter who perpetrates it, and no matter what the stated reason.
· Call for all parties to cease violence right now, with no preconditions, limits or terms.
· Introduce and discuss the Sarvodaya Peace Plan with all parts of the Sarvodaya family (managers, coordinators, independent unit heads, staff, workers and volunteers).
· Introduce and discuss the Sarvodaya Peace Plan in all conversations, meetings, and Sarvodaya sponsored events.
· Conduct a variety of peace activities throughout the country, including Peace Meditations, amity camps, emotional shramadanas, community dialogs, exchange programs, inter-religious gatherings and others.  All activities designed to bring Sri Lankans together and to remove the causes of violence.
· Remove all images that glorify war, killing and violence.

· A cease-fire called between the warring parties.
· Start cross-cultural dialogs at the village level on ethnicity, religion and class issues within Sri Lanka society.
· Develop Dry Zone economic strategy.
ONE YEAR -- 2001:
· All war-related violence ends.
· Peace treaties between warring factions signed.
· Dry Zone Development Plan started.
· Start spending the “peace dividend” (money saved from not having to maintain a large standing army) on relief, rehabilitation and renewal.
· Start rehabilitation of all buildings and rural areas affected by war, including removal of land mines.
· Start programs to help people disabled by war (including physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual disabilities).
· Start to repatriate and resettle all Sri Lankans who are living in refugee camps, including all internal refugees.
· Start rehabilitation of all former combatants.
· Start re-integration and healing of all combatants.

FIVE YEARS -- 2005:
· Dry Zone Development Plan in full operation.
· Sri Lanka no longer in top ten countries with highest suicide rates.
· All poverty indicators in the Dry Zones go down by 10%.
· Former armed youth of both the government and the LTTE together become active participants in a nationwide constructive village re-awakening programme.
· Rehabilitation of buildings and rural areas completed.
· Former combatants successfully re-integrated into civilian populations.

TEN YEARS -- 2010:
· Complete resettlement of all displaced persons (internal and external) into permanent homes in Sri Lanka.

FIFTY YEARS -- 2050:
· War is forgotten, except in history lessons.
· Sri Lanka abolishes its standing military army and starts a "peace army" of nonviolent volunteers trained in conflict resolution.
· Sri Lanka has the lowest suicide rate in the world.
· Sri Lanka has the lowest poverty rate in the world.
· Sri Lanka is a model for other countries for sustainable development.

· Sri Lanka becomes the first country to totally eliminate poverty – both economic and spiritual.
· Sri Lanka becomes main destination for "spiritual tourists" looking to experience peace and serenity.
· "Sri Lanka" becomes a metaphor for a peaceful, poverty-free environment.

· Global climate warming may cause changes to the Sri Lankan environment and geography.  However, because of the history of working together over hundreds of years, these changes will not be disasters.
· In 500 years, people might be living on other planets; however, Sri Lanka will remain their image of Paradise on Earth.

Ten Basic Conditions for a Cease-Fire

We acknowledge that every part of Sri Lanka belongs to every Sri Lankan, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, religion, culture, language, class or sex.  Every Sri Lankan must respect the differences of others.  Based on this acknowledgment, every Sri Lankan must guarantee for all Sri Lankans:
1. Guarantee safety of all citizens everywhere (freedom from fear).
2. Guarantee freedom from summary execution, torture, terror and humiliation.
3. Guarantee free movement of all people everywhere (the right to travel).
4. Guarantee freedom of ideas, information and political expression. (democracy)
5. Guarantee freedom of religious and spiritual expression.
6. Guarantee freedom and equality of culture, language and creative expression.
7. Guarantee respect for the persons and property of all citizens.
8. Guarantee non-interference with work and the opportunity for right livelihood.
9. Guarantee democratic and non-violent participation in governance.
10. Guarantee the right of self-determination of every individual and community.


Zones of Activity
Because social, cultural, political and military conditions on the island are very different in different areas, and large-scale mass meditations are simply impossible in certain areas, especially the LTTE-held zones, Sarvodaya conducts different peace activities in different places on the island.

Strategically thinking, we have identified five zones in Sri Lanka


The peace strategy should be different in each of the zones; what is optimal for one will not necessarily work in another.  In this way, all Sri Lankans, wherever they are located, can fully participate in the Sarvodaya Peace Initiative.

· Zone One:  (government held area in the South):  This is the government-held area and (outside of high-profile terrorist bombings in Colombo and Kandy) is relatively stable.  There is little evidence of war in those areas, except for military checkpoints on the roads.
 Activities in Zone One include large-scale regional peace meditations, as well as smaller cross-cultural gatherings.
· Zone Two:  (Conflict Zone):  This is the area of on-going conflict between the Sri Lanka Army and LTTE and is the place where the most visible signs of war can be seen.
 Activities in Zone Two include small-scale gatherings and village level peace dialogs.
· Zone Three:  (LTTE held area): These are the areas presently held, controlled and administered by LTTE.
 Activities in Zone Three include fact-finding missions, activating Sarvodaya centers and initiating a dialog on peace.
· Zone Four:  (Jaffna):  The Jaffna Peninsula area has seen the most continuous violent conflict of any one area in Sri Lanka.  Because of its remote location and its inaccessibility, peace activity in this area depends on the constantly changing military situation.
· Zone Five:  (Hill Country):  The October 2000 conflicts between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations in the Hill Country demonstrates the continuing possibility of communal violence.  On the other hand, the presence of a large number of “estate” Tamils in the Hill Country provides a unique opportunity for inter-ethnic harmony.
 Activities in Zone Five include cultural exchanges, peace dialogs and other trust-building activities.


The Three Alternatives

Alternative #1: The Eternal War:
In this alternative, the parties go on fighting for the foreseeable future.  Attacks against civilians (on both sides) escalate.  The wealth of the island is used for war and violence.

Alternative #2: The "Bad" Peace
Peace talks lead to a cease-fire.  A peace treaty is drawn up and signed.  Both sides use the lull in fighting to rearm.  The peace is broken; each side blames the other for violating the peace treaty.  The parties move back to war.

Alternative #3: The Sarvodaya Peace
Because of Sarvodaya's work in the spiritual, psychological and development fields, the war grinds to a halt as the foundations for violent conflict are removed.  Sarvodaya leads all sides into an economic rejuvenation of Sri Lanka, especially in the Dry Zones.  Sarvodaya removes the root causes for the use of violence as a way to solve problems.

Sarvodaya leads the way in changing how Sri Lankans think and talk about each other.  Sarvodaya MAKES WAR UNTHINKABLE.

The Fields of Conflict
In order for Sarvodaya to be effective in waging the peace, we must have a clear analysis of the conflict.

There are a number of different ways the Sri Lanka parties contend with each other, different “fields” in which they act:

The Military field
The Political field
The Psychological field
The Ethnic/Cultural/Caste field
The Spiritual field

The Military Field:  Although Sarvodaya is not a military force in the traditional sense, there are more people engaged and activated through their Sarvodaya work than the Government and LTTE combined.

The Political Field
The political situation remains confused by a number of different voices, from peace activists to hard-liners on both sides of the conflict.   Many people derive their power from the presence of conflict.  In order to achieve peace, we must elevate the dialogue about Sri Lanka's problems beyond the rigid posturing of political leaders to have true community discourse about the future of Sri Lanka.

Because of their entrenched positions, neither the government nor LTTE can be seen as yielding to the other.  This is in essence a “lose-lose” scenario.  These efforts to “save face” cause thousands to be killed on both sides.  However, by adopting the Sarvodaya Peace Plan, neither side loses face.

Sarvodaya has consistently supported political power at the lowest possible level:  the villages.

The Psychological Field:  Politics in Sri Lanka remains highly volatile and turbulent.  The main parties are locked into a political stalemate; Sarvodaya is the only organization that can break that stalemate.

Neither the government nor the LTTE can “win” the psychological war.  The sides are too evenly matched.  And, neither side has “clean hands”; each has been linked to harms against civilians.

The Ethnic/ Cultural Field:  This is not a war between the Sinhalese and Tamils.  This is a war of very narrow vested interests, fought in the name of the Sinhalese and Tamils, who are largely caught in the crossfire.  The overwhelming number of Sri Lankans, Sinhalese, Tamil and others, just want to get on with their lives.  Ethnic war (a legacy of colonialism) is inherently unwinnable; history shows that ethnic conflict can go on for decades or even centuries.  It cannot be won; it must be transcended.

The Spiritual Field:  The Sarvodaya peace activities address the psychological and spiritual emptiness of our society. Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  However, that terrible statistic is just the tip of a large valley of despair, depression and the lack of a coherent future.  On the other hand, the richness and variety of Sarvodaya’s religious heritage can become a powerful force for positive change.

Internal War and External War
 There are two wars raging in Sri Lanka; one is the well-known violent conflict between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE.  The other war is internal: Sri Lankans are at war within themselves.  A powerful example of this is the suicide rate on the island, the one of the highest in the world.  However, that terrible statistic is just the tip of a large mountain of despair, depression and the lack of a coherent future.  Additional evidence of a society suffering internal war is all other forms of non-war related violence and deliberate self-harm.  Sri Lanka needs a peace that addresses both of these wars, the totality of despair in this society.  Mental depression and suicide are symptoms of a society that does not work.
 Depression is the foundation for a number of different maladies:
An Island of Victims
 Sri Lanka is an island of victims.  Some of the victims of the war are those killed or wounded by either side in military action.  We have to learn to see those who perpetrate violence on others as victims also.  Some are the victims of an economic system where they see military service as a way to earn money.  Others are the victims of violent and repressive living environments that turn loving children into suicides (and suicide bombers).  Some victims are victimizing others, creating a terrible cycle of victim-villain-violence.
 Depression is the foundation for internalized violence (including alcohol, drugs, risk-taking, deliberate self-harm and suicide) and for externalized violence (including rape, murder and war).  The Sarvodaya Peace Initiative addresses both the internal and external "war".
 Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  However, that terrible statistic is just the tip of a large valley of despair, depression and the lack of a coherent future.  According to a Sarvodaya partnered program for health care among youth, mental depression is the single most reported health issue among young people 14-21 years of age.
The Culture of Violence
The Sinhalese, the Tamils and all other ethnic groups are victims of the culture of violence.  Neither the government nor LTTE “winning” the conflict will do anything other than make the culture of violence worse.   Each side feels justified in its violent response to the other.  This justification perpetuates violence.

The government, LTTE and other parties vested in the war want Sri Lankans to think about the conflict like this:


or like this:

In reality, the conflict looks more like this:

Sarvodaya is the largest and best-organized group in Sri Lanka that can oppose the culture of violence.

From Zones of Despair to Zones of Hope
 There is a very high degree of correlation between the areas of the North and South that have experienced violent conflict, the areas that have the highest incidents of suicide, the areas with the highest incidents of alcoholism and the areas with the harshest agricultural conditions.  We call these “the Zones of Despair”.  [Do MAP AND overlays]
 The difficult economic conditions, coupled to an uncertain and difficult future, lead people to resort to violence as a way out -- violence toward oneself or violence toward others.  The Zones of Despair are the fuel for both the internal and external wars.
 Neither the government nor the LTTE have an answer to the Zones of Despair.  Through its development approach, Sarvodaya has a clearly articulated philosophy and programs for the development of all of Sri Lanka, with particular emphasis on the Zones of Despair.  Sarvodaya’s goal is to turn the Zones of Despair into Zones of Hope.
Levels Of Ethnic Conflict
One of the main problems between the opposing parties in the Sri Lanka conflict is that they do not talk to each other about other’s issues.  Each side tends to  minimize the other’s position, leading to further distrust and misunderstanding.

There are three principal ways that ethnic, cultural and/or religious groups conflict with each other:

Level One:  Personal - Social Conflict
At this level of conflict, there is little contact between members of different groups.  It is seen as “wrong” or “bad” to associate with the other group.  People in a group are “tainted” by associating with each other.

In Sri Lanka, there is little Level One conflict between majority and minority populations.
Level Two:  Cultural - Ethnic Behavioral Conflict
At Level Two conflict, there is little knowledge of the cultural, ethnic or religious behavior of other groups. Through ignorance of each other’s culture, language and ethnic behavior, it is easy for one group to offend the other.  These offenses are interpreted as deliberate, furthering cultural misunderstanding.

In Sri Lanka, there is significant distance between the majority and minority cultures at Level Two.

Level Three:  Power / Authority Conflict
At Level Three, there is a perception that one ethnic/cultural group is more powerful (politically, economically and socially) than the others. This power imbalance may be based on political power, economic power, police/military power or social power.  The power imbalance may be based on a history of discrimination that may be hundreds of years old.

In Sri Lanka,  Level Three is the place where the parties are experiencing the highest degree of conflict.


In the end, this document is only words on paper.  By itself, it cannot make peace.

All of us must engage in the peace process -- in our villages and communities, in our homes and in our hearts.

We must match these words with deeds.  This means we must continue and expand the peace meditations, cross-cultural dialogues, emotional shramadanas and other activities called for in this document.   I firmly believe that these peace activities, sponsored by Sarvodaya and others, practiced by hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans from all walks of life, will directly contribute to a climate of nonviolence that makes peace a possibility and war unthinkable.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne
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