10 November 2013

An anthem for youth who should not be doomed

The Commonwealth Youth Forum was inaugurated on Sunday November 10, 2013.  The Sri Lankan delegation comprised among others representatives from the indigenous population, the community of differently abled young people as well as ex-combatants who not too long ago wore cyanide capsules strung on a string that went around their necks and carried guns, bullets and grenades.  The opening ceremony itself was marked by the theme of inclusivity with an outstanding and breath-stopping performance by the differently abled to timeless lyrics and melody composed by the late Michael Jackson, ‘Heal the World’.

Youth is about tomorrow.  They are the future.  It might sound inappropriate to pull something up from the past, but there is something of youthfulness that’s missing today that calls for comment.  In short, the young people who are absent and without representation at this forum. 
Rewind back to May 2009.  Rewind to the quarter of a century that came before May 2009.  There were youth then too.  Those who were young in the eighties would not be young any more, even if they were alive. They retained and retain their youthfulness but only on account of the fact that they never grew old. They died. 
There were others who would still be young.  Boys and girls grabbed from their homes even as their parents watched helplessly or were abducted on their way to school or on their way home after school.  They were made to fight for a cause they were clearly too young to make head or tail of.  They were made to don military fatigues, taught how to throw grenades and pull a trigger and even made to wear suicide jackets and blow themselves into pieces and beyond recollection.
There were young men and women who went to battle in the name of the Motherland or because they did not have any other means of providing for their respective families.  On the other side of the divide too there were young men and women, old enough to have some idea about what the fighting was all about.  They had courage, all of them.  Courage and heroism are not ethnic specific. 
They are not here to cheer people of their generation as they step forward to draw blueprint for future, detail the challenges and discuss ways of overcoming them. 
And yet, they are present in their absence.  In a forum that celebrates inclusivity and calls for greater integration and mobilizing of difference, the dead alone cannot be counted.  Their absence therefore must be recognized.  We have no way of calculating what they may have added to the deliberations, no way of extrapolating outcomes if they were factored in, but they must be remembered.  This world needs courage and selflessness and both qualities are most pronounced among the youth. Few would dispute that the absent or rather the absented were endowed with both qualities and in quantities that are rarely found.  We cannot forget them.
He is not attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2013

 Fifteen years ago, they may or may not have heard of something called a Commonwealth. Not in their wildest dreams would they have envisaged representing their generation at an international conference. Had they still been alive, they may have been in Hambantota today, who can tell?  But they are gone and we should not forget them. 
As important is to remember and count blessings.  Post May 2009, Sri Lanka does not have any child soldiers.  There is no forced conscription of children.  Kids can be kids and are free to grow up into adults without having adults thrust guns into their hands and violent ideologies down their throats.  Children are not fighting adult wars and are not getting killed by those who do not flinch when thrusting bayonet through a child’s stomach as was the norm when Sri Lanka was a happy hunting ground for terrorists and terrorism. 
They very well may attend a Commonwealth Youth Forum 10 years from now

Somewhere in some part of Sri Lanka, there’s a 5 year old boy.  Somewhere else there is a 7 year old girl.  They are growing up and they are able to be the children they are, thinking the thoughts that children think, dreaming children’s dreams, living in a world of school, kites, running around, bruised knees, tears and tears being wiped by loving mothers.  Fifteen years from now in some yet unnamed venue, both will represent Sri Lanka at a forum such as this, the Commonwealth Youth Forum. 
There are things we should lament and things that we should be grateful for.   There are destinations worth walking towards and places we need to walk away from.