Future Leaders Press Conference
The Sri Lanka Unites Future Leaders Conference kicks off today in Galle. This is the fifth season of a program which brings together now 500 young people from all over the island to train them to become the future leaders of Sri Lanka. It’s a compelling group and vision. I went to the press conference a few weeks ago. The most interesting thing was what Prashan De Visser said, that according to their information over 70% of Sri Lankan youth don’t have a friend outside of their ethnic or religious group. More than telling racists/bigots they’re bad (or calling them racists/bigots even) the best thing is for people to simply know each other, to put a name to a race.
How do you say, inoculation is the best vaccine against racism. Simple exposure to someone different forces you to take them from a construct in your mind to a real person, in all their complexity. Many anti-Muslim people can go into great detail on the flaws in Islam or that culture (as expressed in Sri Lanka) but it’s much harder to criticize a person so, especially to their face. One big part of what SLU does is simply introduce kids from across the island to each other, forming friendships.
Another part is giving them the leadership training and connections be the generation this country needs, a generation that bridges the gaps that ignorance and hatred have put up. It’s a wonderful event, which you can follow more on their blog and on Facebook.