Sri Lanka: I know who holds the future
28 January 2010

One of the ‘welfare centres’ set up in north-east Sri Lanka to house Tamils displaced in the last round of the war in the Vanni. (JRS International)
What does the future hold? I don’t know but I know who holds the future. That’s my faith.
Nepal, 8 February 2010 – One of those accompanied by JRS in the war zones of Sri Lanka is 22-year-old Aravinth. His family bears the scars of ethnic violence and the war that pitted the army against the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Although Aravinth has moved on, his past haunts him.

I am at university and determined to study well. Yet sometimes a deep sense of insecurity pervades my being. My grandfather used to tell us how he lost everything during the 1958 anti-Tamil riots by Sinhalese thugs in the south. My father suffered the same fate when he went to the south to run a shop. In “black July” 1983, Tamils were targeted in widespread rioting. Sinhalese friends saved my father but he returned home empty handed.

We were happy although we grew up in the midst of the war. My father had a small shop and did farming. There was no electricity in the Vanni (the northern region that was the stronghold of the LTTE) so we studied with the light of hurricane lamps. Many a time we sat for exams amid aerial bombardments, rushing to the bunkers and returning to continue our exams once the bombing was over. In 1998, we had to take refuge in a distant village. We lost the youngest in the family to a snake bite because of the economic embargo imposed on the Vanni and the consequent shortage of medicines. This was the first time I encountered people from JRS. They consoled me and helped me to cope with the tragedy. Aware of the conditions of my family in displacement, they enrolled me as a scholarship student for secondary school.

In 2002, there was a ceasefire and we returned home. But war resumed and, in 2007, my younger brother was forcibly recruited by the LTTE. In early 2009, we were forced out of our village again as the army advanced – the darkest days of our lives. When we escaped from the battle zone we ended up in a ‘welfare centre’. Imprisonment, hunger, inadequate hygiene, constant interrogations, became our lot. The presence of paramilitary groups and Intelligence personnel threatened us; abductions and ‘disappearances’ sent shivers of panic among us.

Eventually I was released so I could continue my studies. If I am at university today, I owe much to JRS, which continues to support me. Still I am filled with pain for my brother who was recruited. We don’t know where he is although we have searched everywhere for him. 

What does the future hold? I don’t know but I know who holds the future. That’s my faith.