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Sunday, 8 March 2015





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Write to Reconcile Anthology II:

Creative writing for reconciliation

“War is something that I despise
Because it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears in thousands of mothers’ eyes
When their sons go out to fight and lose their lives...” Edwin Starr

These lyrics of Edwin Starr came to my mind while listening to the words of internationally renowned author Shyam Selvadurai at the launch of the Write to Reconcile Anthology II which was held recently at the BMICH.

He stressed, “We must love another person not more or less than ourselves, but as much as ourselves”. How beautiful are these sentiments expressed by the writer. Write to Reconcile is a timely idea for Sri Lankan society since they have gone through the brutality of 30 years of civil war. No one can ever estimate the terrible suffering that we all went through as a nation irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Thousands of people have been killed.

Participants at the workshop

It could be a soldier from the Army from the South or a ‘terrorist’ from the LTTE from the North - the terrible wounds of war have left bodies maimed and minds destroyed.

Families have been left without their loved ones. Boys who have been recruited as soldiers especially in the North, have died while those yet alive have had woven into the very fabric of their nature, elements of hatred which will never leave them.


In this context the Write to Reconcile Anthology II examines the impact of the war and its aftermath on the people of Sri Lanka, many of whom had no choice but to participate in the war the world they lived in permanently changed by the sweep of conflict.

It is a creative piece writing that brought together 24 Sri Lankan and diasporic writers who were interested in fiction, memoir or poetry - on the issues of conflict, peace, reconciliation, trauma and memory, as they relate to Sri Lanka in the war and post-war period.

Over the course of an eight-day creative writing workshop held partly in Kandy and in Batticaloa in March 2014, the participants generated creative work and learned the tools and techniques of creative writing and editing.

In addition, the participants met local human rights workers and did field visits to people and communities affected by the war.

There was also a cultural tour of Kandy and visits to various cultural centres in Batticaloa. All this enhanced the participants’ knowledge of war, trauma, memory and reconciliation. Following the workshop, participants submitted creative writings to a workshop in the course of two online fora.

Once they finished, participants worked with Shyam Selvadurai, the Project Director, to prepare one of their creative pieces for publication. The editing took four months. The results are published in the Write to Reconcile Anthology 2.

Write to Reconcile Anthology II include: how a Muslim family struggles with the abduction of their son by armed men they suspect might be LTTE; a Sinhala soldier and a young Tamil woman in Jaffna falling in love and trying to make a life for themselves against great odds; a teacher recalls the death of her brother, an ace pilot for the Sri Lankan Air Force; a young Tamil immigrant in London remembers his Muslim boyhood friend and their endeavour to maintain a friendship despite the escalating inter-communal conflict in Batticaloa and many other poignant and inspiring stories and poems which give readers a vivid portrait of Sri Lanka’s history in the past 30 years, the people affected by this history, and the stories they have to tell.

Selvadurai, said, “It was a real learning experience for me working with the participants, getting to know their histories and coming to understand the diversity of ways in which people experienced the war.

In this, our second year of the project, I feel we have to capture in the anthology some of the experiences that were missing in the first anthology, particularly that of the soldiers in the government forces and the way the war played out in the Eastern Province.

The work of the participants, published in the anthology, is brave and brilliant.


The stories and poems give readers a chance to enter into their worlds and points of view different from their own and allow us to empathise with those from other cultural communities.

Dr. Jehan Perera, the Executive Director of the National Peace Council, under whose auspices Write to Reconcile is carried out, said, “Five years after the end of the war there remain strong misgivings on all sides of the ethnic divide which need to be addressed through a multi-track approach.

“We are happy to support Selvadurai and facilitate his efforts to bring more empathy for our fellow citizens of different ethnic and religious backgrounds through the cultural track.

His presence in Sri Lanka gives an international and world-class dimension to our work.

Write to Reconcile is sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the American Center. In speaking of their support of the project, Ambassador Grete Chen of the Royal Norwegian Embassy said,” Each individual and community has their own narratives about their past and their present. Hearing the narrative of the other can help build trust among communities and people.

Trust is the glue that holds people together and it is trust that will pave the way to reconciliation. We are proud to support this project which connects people and cultures through the art of storytelling.

The American Center, Director Nicole Chulick said, “When people make emotional connections that transcend perceived differences, that inspires reconciliation.

The young authors involved in this project have made those connections. Now, the readers will open their hearts and minds to the characters in these stories; they will dream their dreams, consider their perspectives, and find the humanity and empathy that create lasting peace and unity.

The U.S. Embassy is proud of the Write to Reconcile team and their contribution to reconciliation in Sri Lanka through creative writing.

Two-thousand copies of the anthology will be mailed out to selected schools and libraries throughout the country. In addition, an e-book will be available free for downloading at

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