"Any change this big always begins with young people."
Even as class president at Gordon, Prashan De Visser, who graduated in 2008 with a major in international affairs, was working toward unity in his war-torn home country of Sri Lanka. While still a student he formed an organization called Sri Lanka Unites, whose purpose was to create a “youth movement for hope and reconciliation.” So when he returned home after graduation, he and a 15-member committee planned a leadership and reconciliation conference that brought together hundreds of Sri Lankan youth.
That first conference is the subject of a new documentary film produced by another Gordon alumnus, Tom Kearney ’08. Sri Lanka Unites: The Road to Reconciliation was shown Monday, October 4, at 7 p.m. in Gordon College’s Barrington Cinema.
“I was compelled by Prashan’s passion to see his country unite,” said Kearney, who studied communication arts at Gordon. “I’m grateful that I was able to travel to Sri Lanka to capture the beginning stages of his efforts to bring about reconciliation.”
The 35-minute documentary focuses on the organization and mission of Sri Lanka Unites, which consists of young people from every ethnicity, language and religion in Sri Lanka. “We have nothing in common but the commitment to reconciliation,” said De Visser.
Through keynote speakers like Sri Lankan cricket player Sanath Jayasuriya, themes such as respect and tolerance were addressed as the starting points for building peace in Sri Lanka.
“We want to show these students that they can be leaders now, they can have an impact now,” said De Visser. “As youth who are Hindu, Christian, Islamic and Buddhist come together in conversation during these conferences, they begin the process of rebuilding.” By October 31, 2010, De Visser said Sri Lanka Unites hope to reach 20,000 youth through similar gatherings.
“Prashan has passion coupled with bright intellect and a work ethic that allows him to deliver on his promises,” said Jan Carlberg, First Lady of Gordon College. “He may well be our first alum to receive the Nobel Peace Prize some day.”
While the mission of Sri Lanka Unites is well underway, De Visser knows there is much work to be done in healing the country.
“Reconciliation is a long term-endeavor,” he said. “We need to come together as one people and walk towards reconciliation together. Any change this big always begins with young people.”
For more information on Sri Lanka Unites, visit http://srilankaunites.org/
By Natalie Ferjulian
Gordon College is a multidenominational Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston’s North Shore, offering majors in 36 fields with graduate programs in education and music education. Gordon is nationally recognized for excellence in academics and in character building, and ranks as one of the nation’s top Christian colleges. www.gordon.edu