Youth Activist Mr. John Loughton started the session saying that he was happy to be in this very hot country from the very cool country of Scotland.
“Yesterday at the opening ceremony, fitting that I heard President Rajapaksa mention in his speech he's defeated terrorism and brought peace and reconciliation,” Mr. Loughton said, recalling Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech yesterday during the WCY opening ceremony at the Magam Ruhunupura International Convention Center (MRICC) in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
In his remarks, he said that conflict and violence hit women and youth the hardest, and even though reconciliation is talked about much, conflict prevention is better. He also said he passionately believes that young people must be at the heart of any genuine, long-term, sustainable solutions to conflict.
“I fundamentally believe that conflict at its extreme form is extremely preventable,” he stressed.
Mr. Nalaka Gunawardene, a journalist from Sri Lanka, said that this conference reminded him of two events he attended when he was young and said that those events enhanced his own understanding of violence.
“One thing that has happened over the last few decades is that violence has become more sophisticated and insidious,” Mr. Gunawardene said. “That is what I want to stress today.”
Mr. Gunawardene explained the term structural violence and its history, starting from when Johan Galtung first used the term.
“Five years ago this month, the long drawn Sri Lanka war ended,” Mr. Gunawardene continued. “It is a civil war that lasted over 25 years. As a diverse nation, as a pluralistic society, the end of war elicited many different emotions among our people. One sentiment, though, that many of us shared irrespective of other concerns is the sense of relief, and some of us also felt the need of responsibility.”
On Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process, he said “We know that the peace is much more than simple absence of fighting or combat or gun fire. Likewise, I'd suggest that reconciliation retains much more than co-existence of two groups who were formerly in a conflict.”
Ms. Sandra Tesch Wilkins from Red Cross Red Crescent Youth thanked Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa for hosting this event, while she also thanked organizers, delegates and everyone involved in the Conference.
She explained the mechanism of her organization when promoting human dignities and peace in 198 countries. She added that there are 15 million Red Cross volunteers all over the world, while half of them are young, or under 30 years old.