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War and peace

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Sep. 1st, 2006 | 11:06 am
mood: sadsad
music: whirring fans

I saw this in a recent email from Sarvodaya (a Sri Lankan peace group), and wanted to share it.
Those who advocate a continuation of the war, or adopt a hard-line toward the peace talks, are usually nowhere near the war zone.  According to the survey work of Sarvodaya's "mobile leaders", the hardness of attitude is in direct relationship to the person’s distance from the war.  According to the preliminary results of our survey, 60% of the Sinhalese in the far southern regions believe that the government should expand the war and seek a military victory over LTTE.  That number shrinks to less than 8% for the Sinhalese who actually live in the war zone.  Those who don't know the horror of war want a military victory.  Those who do know want peace.
And there is this too. "Mr Bike Repair" is a man who setup a bike repair business inside a refugee camp (the older camps have economies).

I usually end my interviews by asking the participant what he or she believed would solve the present conflict.  Most participants from the refugee camps did not answer that question, or said that their present conditions did not allow them to think about the future.

Mr.Bike Repair was different.  He grew thoughtful for a few moments,staring into space at either remembered pain or a vision of a better future.  He then said, "First, we are human beings.  Let us start with that.  Our ethnic group, our religion, our party... these things are not as important as the fact that we are all human beings.  If we remember that we are human beings, we can then solve our problems.  If we forget this, the problems will never go away."

This is the kind of simple, elegant wisdom that comes from the village level.  It is a statement without bitterness or hatred.  His home and livelihood was destroyed, but he was not seeking to destroy others. 

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