In early 2009, the 25-year-old conflict between the Tamil rebels and the government of Sri Lanka reached a bloody end. Up to 250,000 people were trapped between the two sides in the final stages of the war.
Caritas was one of the few aid agencies given permission to work in the combat zone throughout the fighting. Caritas Sri Lanka (SEDEC) staff remained alongside the people, enduring months of daily shelling and hardship. Now the fighting is over, Caritas is working with the affected population to provide aid, but is also building greater understanding between the country’s people.
“Children are victims of this absurd, monstrous ethnic war.We should not divide them,” said Caritas Sri Lanka staff. In October, Caritas organised a celebration of the Deepavali festival of lights for Hindu and Christian former child soldiers in a state-run rehabilitation centre.
A crowd of 200 people including Buddhist soldiers, and Hindu and Christian children joined the celebration. Children wearing colourful clothing sang Tamil songs, shared sweets and exchanged gifts. The Buddhist soldiers also joined the children for a traditional lunch, served on banana leaves. By encouraging dialogue and meetings among young people, Caritas hoped to create a bridge for the future, across the ethnic and religious divide.