Peace and Reconciliation Tour to Sri Lanka – a reflection by Lushani
By Lushani Wewelwela Hewage
This tour has completely changed me. My love for Sri Lanka has reignited and it is hard to put into words what I feel. Nevertheless, I shall try for the sake of writing this.
Sri Lanka is an amazing place, full of colour and smiling people and ancient sacred places. Every place we went to, everyone we talked to; I wished that we could have stayed longer. We visited many important places and met with so many people; a few of these were a highlight for me.
I have bonded especially well with a few people in the group. They have become my older brothers and sisters. I value their opinion and have learnt a lot from them whilst being on this trip. I am so grateful for their existence. Although I am sure they are slightly annoyed by my incessant texting by now, but that is what little sisters do right?
We swam in the ocean under the moonlight, listened to their songs and it was so beautiful. There were countless moments of laughing uncontrollably yet also sharing difficult life stories. These people have been constant in their support and understanding.
Going to Katharagama and seeing the perahara and standing in the way of the elephants was amazing. Standing right next to the elephants and seeing the main elephant with the tusks being dressed magnificently, carrying the relics from the Hindu temple to the Buddhist temple was incredible to witness.
My brief reunion with my older sister was also a highlight as I had not seen her in five years. It was a blessing to see the house I grew up in and to remember memories from my childhood once again.
Meeting the Indigenous people of Sri Lanka, the Vaddhas and the teachings from the tribal chief’s son, really impacted me. The Vaddhas taught us about being peaceful and respecting the ground that we live on.
Going to Batticoloa, which was the hometown of Desh, was extremely moving. He shared with us his primary school memories, which were heartbreaking. I feel so thankful to Desh for sharing these difficult years of his life with us all.
There was such a contrast between my primary school days to his. Where I grew up in Sri Lanka we knew there was a war going on as there were physical signs but his experience in primary school is completely shaped by war. He has enlightened me about how we view trauma and how these experiences last a life time. They never go away and these experiences will continue to shape us as we go forward in life. I’m learning that we should embrace these experiences and use it as motivation to help those struggling.
Visiting Anuradapura was extremely special as this is a very sacred town for Buddhists. Going to the top of the rock in Kaludiya Pokuna and witnessing the amazing view was something else. I felt something that I really cannot put into words. I felt like I could have stayed up there for the rest of my life.
Meeting war widows in Vavuniya and seeing their courage is something to be admired. Their persistence to make their lives better and better for their children was truly touching. They are the very image of female empowerment.
Going to Jaffna and visiting the temple that was particularly special to Sivanjana was great. I loved being in Jaffna, wearing salwar and pottu (dot on the forehead). Visiting Batticaloa and going to Jaffna and listening to Sivanjana, Shafy and Desh speaking in Tamil was incredible. I was so interested that I have now begun learning Tamil.
This trip was incredible and I truly hope that there will be more of these journeys to come for our group. It was amazing to go back to my hometown, but I’m now extremely interested in going back to the places we visited. I want to, in my own small way, help Sri Lanka move towards a more prosperous future. One where we treat everyone who lives there as human beings and embrace each other’s differences.
I feel we should respect, embrace and celebrate each other’s differences because then we can join in and celebrate these various traditions. Celebrating and embracing others cultures encourages friendships, stronger diversity and of course a wide variety of amazing food!
This is just a small window into what happened on our journey. This trip was of course a whole lot more than I can put into words and on paper. I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this experience and I’m very thankful to Uniting Journeys for making it possible.