In the aftermath of the riots in 1983, Sarvodaya convened a gathering of community leaders in Colombo which led to the Peoples Declaration on Peace and National Harmony. In the same year, Sarvodaya formed its 5R Unit to address the development needs of communities in the North and East. On 29 August 1999, Sarvodaya began a new phase of peace initiatives with a Peace Meditation that drew 170,000 participants.
This new phase recognised that the war was the result of more than political causes and required more than political solutions. The Sarvodaya People’s Peace Initiative of 2000 articulated a long-term plan to seek a solution to the problem of violence in Sri Lanka. The 2001 plan of action, 90 Days to Stop the Violence, initiated specific activities, both local and national, that gave voice to the people’s desire for peace and promoted an environment in which the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) could be implemented.
We had hoped that after the CFA, the parties would engage in meaningful discussion to move the country toward a lasting peace. Instead, the CFA was accepted as an acceptable status quo, the underlying causes of the war were not addressed, and the country began its gradual slide into a “proxy war” with a recent escalation of violence in the North and East.
Economics and social consciousness are closely linked with the conflict. To this end, Sarvodaya has worked successfully for more than four decades to create change in villages throughout Sri Lanka. Through our Peace Meditation programme we began to focus on raising the consciousness of Sri Lanka. Since our first Peace Meditation in 1999, additional meditations have involved more than a million Sri Lankans from all ethnic groups and religions.
Sarvodaya has also sought to support the development of a peaceful solution through political action. Beginning with low-level contacts with all parties in 2000, Sarvodaya’s effort, led by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, has been directed at developing trust and consensus among all parties, regardless of ethnicity, religion or regional location.