Sri Lanka man Sandun Thudugala has known from an early age that he might be killed without warning.
“It is not easy to keep seeing and hearing people killed brutally and unnecessarily every day. It’s difficult to move around when bomb explosions kill innocent people and to know that we might be among them any time and anywhere,” he says of his war-torn homeland.
New Zealand aid and development organisation, Christian World Service (CWS), is bringing 27-year-old Sandun and five other young people from Sri Lanka, Fiji, East Timor and Zimbabwe to New Zealand for the Global Youth Encounter, a series of meetings and conferences looking at ways of freeing New Zealand communities of violence.
Sandun, George, Alcina, Fidelio, Onoria and Nyasha will be visiting Palmerston North today and tomorrow.
While in New Zealand, Sandun wants to share stories of life in Sri Lanka, and meet other young people working to reduce the violence headlining news in New Zealand. The death toll in Sri Lanka’s civil war is around 70,000 since the first wave of fighting started in 1983, according to Reuters news agency.
“As youth, it’s not possible just to give in to frustration and anger, since we inherit the future and the task of creating a livable future is ours,” he says.
CWS youth coordinator Liz Whitehead says people like Sandun are well qualified to show young New Zealanders how to stop home grown violence. The visitors have a lot to share about coping with conflict and learning to live peacefully, she says.
“The kids coming from Fiji have lived through several coups so take-overs are standard government stuff for them. The Sri Lankans have lived with 20 years of civil war and the Timorese have lived through military invasion and independence. Young people of those countries bring a perspective about violence that New Zealanders don’t know or understand.”
The Global Youth Encounter started in Auckland on July 16, and tours the country until August 4. Tour highlights are weekend meetings in Wellington this weekend and Christchurch the weekend after to discuss violence and peace overseas and at home, what’s really happening in many parts of our world, and to meet other young people who care about ending violence.