Write to Reconcile Anthology II:
Creative writing for reconciliation
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
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
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
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
“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
The American Center, Director Nicole Chulick said, “When people make
emotional connections that transcend perceived differences, that
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