Now, children born after three years [of peace] are very fortunate. They are born without the sounds [of war]. These children who are born have a future if the peace holds out….During the war, the toy that children always asked for was a pistol. This kind of spirit has gone….They asked for the thing that they heard in their mother’s womb. Now it is not so. Now what the children ask for is a ball or a bulldozer.

—From Sri Lanka

 

The child born today is born without the sound of warthe sound of firing and the sound of bombs. When they go to the hospital to have the baby—I was there once—to Anuradhapura, Kebithigollewa, planes and helicopters are flying. They hear there was a bomb blast, that a bus [was attacked]. When the mother in [labour] pains hears this, within the child this fear is created. It is with that fear that the child is born. Now for that child, when 10, 15, 18 years pass, there will be a turn for the good, and a peaceful future will prevail. I see my own child now. I come on my bicycle to work. A school child is on the way to school. He went to the light post near the cemetery. The light was still on. The child extinguished the light. That was a cause of great joy for me. An ordinary person would not have cared much for this. This means that children born today are filled with moral virtues.

—From Sri Lanka

For example, we only know about the beautiful things happening on the stage, but we do not know about the things that happen behind the stage. Peace is also like that. The media speaks of peace. Plays about peace are acted on the stage. Songs are sung about peace. But real peace is not found in any of those. Our aim is true peace. When you remove the tender bud of a well-grown tree, it does not die. Instead, it will put forth a new bud, and continue its growth. The fetus in the womb has the power to listen. It has been experimentally proved that there is a difference between the child of a mother who lived in a situation of stress and another of a mother who lived peacefully. When it comes to peace we have to go to the pre-natal level. This is a difficult journey. We have gone only a short distance. If the peace process is to be successful we’ve got to go back to its origin.

From Sri Lanka

 


INTRODUCTION

Everyone agrees: the best reason to make peace is so that our children can avoid the suffering of previous generations. In Northern Ireland, George Santayana’s dictum that “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” has been so well-worn that it is now on a mural attributed to an East Belfast politician.

2012-09-09-ervinewide

The wounding of younger people, even those who may have no direct experience of the conflict, is one of the most important subjects for compromise work. This hope may depend on the emergence of a new kind of citizen, one with a greater understanding of the other and a greater capacity for building upon the foundations of shared history—or at least one who can acknowledge the validity of history as seen by other communities.

Compromise can give rise to changed social geography and the development of shared social spaces; younger people emerging into adulthood in the post-peace process era often have different values than their elders. But they also lack direct experience of (or even historical knowledge about) the conflict, which may inhibit the development of the kind of empathetic consciousness that contributes to sharing space meaningfully.

Some people are anxious about the future prospects of their children as they face the struggles of a broken society seeking to renew itself against the odds. It may be particularly important to shape shared educational and recreational spaces to enable younger generations to embody the change their parents hope for.


1) I think now my children and my grandchildren will have as many rights as anybody else. And it seems to me my children don’t get asked their religion. Don’t ask anybody else their religion.…When I was their age, I could have told you every Protestant in Lurgan. Every Protestant could have told you every Catholic, whereas my children now? I have still that habit of saying, I would say to my daughter, “Is she a Protestant or is she a Catholic?” And my daughter would go, “I don’t know.”

From Northern Ireland

 


2) “I don’t know Mandela, I don’t know Ashley Kriel—why must I do what he said?” That child didn’t know about Ashley Kriel. That’s why he was asking that stupid question. That young generation doesn’t know anything about the past…and they don’t ask about it.

From South Africa

 


3) I see the future full of uncertainties and I cannot describe it in clear terms. But it is going to be a tough task for the upcoming generations in terms of justice and fairness in all aspects of their lives. Say for example, education, employment, living conditions, and so on. They need to struggle every day for their survival, which is not a good sign for the upcoming generation.

From Sri Lanka

 

The children also feel what happened in the war. Our son when his father was in the hospital, he held my hand and said, “I will go someday to the army.” I asked why. He said that it was they [Tigers] who placed the bomb that injured his father. When thoughts like that enter the child’s mind, when he grows up, hatred could grow as well. At that time I said, “Son, do not think that way.” I did not permit such thoughts in the child’s mind at that time. That feeling is still in the child.

From Sri Lanka

 

Q: Can we come to a compromise with them?

A: That is where the problem lies. Why? This cannot be done in the short term. Why it cannot be done is this: there are people who did not get involved with the LTTE here but went abroad to meet the ends of the LTTE. We did not have the opportunity to move with our Tamil brethren as children and youth. Sincerely speaking, I am suspicious about them. They are also suspicious about the Sinhalese. This suspicion is the biggest disaster among us. Our generation will not be able to surmount this suspicion. The next generation of Tamil and Sinhalese children are the people who will be able to overcome this suspicion. We should respect their language, their customs, their culture; we must respect them; they should respect us; it is by doing these that we will be able to overcome this suspicion. I do not think our generation could do it. Even if we want to do this, even if they [the Tamils] want to do it, it cannot be done because of distrust.

From Sri Lanka

 


4) I think when people’s needs aren’t met they become festering sores across generations.

From South Africa

 


5) The only way, and this is my personal viewpoint, the only way that I can see forward, quite frankly, is that the…Church has absolutely nothing to do with education at all.

It has served the Catholic well. We, quite frankly, educated ourselves out of being second-class citizens. There is no doubt in my mind that is the case. We have educated ourselves out of being second-class citizens. And to a certain extent, actually, fault is the wrong word to use, but it is the Protestants’ own fault because they didn’t give us a fair crack of the whip in the first place and therefore we had to educate ourselves out of it. And we have done that now.

And we are all on a par now. And that is the way it should be. But now that you are there, everything has its day. Everything has its uses. But just because something has worked for the last forty years doesn’t mean it is going to work for the next forty years. And in my mind it has had its use, it has had its day. We have come to the point now where we have to say we really don’t need Catholic schools anymore. We don’t need that anymore. What we need, quite simply, are schools that give a good education to everyone and integrate, properly integrate. It is not a question of forcing people to integrate, it is a question of—right, okay, there is a school, you go to it. Almost by saying “oh, this is an integrated school” you are labeling it.

—From Northern Ireland

 

Young people, they don’t have anything to do. They do drugs and they steal, and there are no jobs. That’s also why young people get corrupt, because there are no jobs, people don’t get a proper education, or some people don’t want to make use of their education.

—From Northern Ireland

 


6) I think that intergenerational trauma is of great significance….And I don’t think we appreciate the depth of intergenerational pain and conflict and even identity that crosses through the generations. And I would say that the depth of spiritual damage throughout the people of South Africa, particularly the black people, the denial of value, I think is of huge, huge, huge significance. But it is not so easy to get at it….The Western lenses with which donor agencies and partners look prevent them from seeing that….When we talk about intergenerational trauma, their eyes cloud over; they are more inclined as partners to say, well, can we have a five-year program. Which is not bad, to have a limited-term program, but the assumption is that at the end of that, the nation is healed, or whatever. And you know, sometimes, especially in some parts of Europe, the Second World War was yesterday. I often get this sense, when you drive around Germany, for example, that it is not far from the surface. And the marks are all around. And then you go to Romania, and they speak with venom of a conflict that was a thousand years ago, and the poison continues to infect the present. And it has never been dealt with…the idea of who was us and who was them….Apartheid, its foundation was several hundred years. So it is five minutes that we have been in democracy.

From South Africa

 


7) We talk about it now because a lot of the social clubs in the west of the city in terms of business are not doing so well. And in our generation, if you want to call it that, they were the hub of social activity in the west because you couldn’t go into town. Town wasn’t yours. But now our young people, Belfast is as much theirs as it is ours. I see GAA tops going about Belfast city center like nobody’s business. Where before you wouldn’t have seen one. You would have been assaulted; you would have been arrested just for that simple fact.

Our kids don’t use the social clubs in the west. They go downtown. And I think it is fantastic. They are interacting; they are meeting people and barriers are being broken down constantly. We are not the evil things that they make us out to be. We are just ordinary guys going out for a night out and doing this and that. And I think that Belfast has changed dramatically from what it was. And that is good, that is positive.

We still have to live here—no matter what.

From Northern Ireland

 


8) If you go to the Transkei or the Ciskei, or parts of KZN, you will see old people with young children. Very few young people. Young adults, they leave, they look for work, but they bring their offspring to granny in the rural areas. And that is the sad thing. Because those children have to go to school, and they go to school in these far-out places, and those schools are really inadequate. And it is almost as though history is repeating itself, but in a different way.

From South Africa

 


9) The thinking of our present elders is as hard as stone. But the younger ones are not so. They are soft like clay that can be molded into something proper. I think that when they are adults they will look at these problems with a greater sense of justice. That is my hope for the future.

From Sri Lanka

 

Five Voices from Sri Lanka:

  • I am going forward with a specific goal. Not like those days. Now I have a child. I hope to make him a good citizen. We are Buddhists. Buddhism teaches to look after the helpless. That is what I tell my wife.
  • The future generation should be able to see the world through the eyes of a good education and move forward in life with a vision. My aim is honestly not to make them pass examinations, but to make of them good citizens for the society.
  • If I have no hope, then others will see and they also will lose hope. I got my eldest daughter educated. I hope to educate my children. When my children are without hope, I do not tell them that they cannot. Sometimes they cannot. But if I say so, they will have no hope at all….All need not get government jobs….I do not have the idea that my child should be a government serv
  • I have two children, one of whom is in grade four. I want to educate him and make him pass the grade five scholarship examination, the OL and AL, and send him to the university and get a good government job. These are my future hopes. My concern is the future of the children. We have built a house, but it has not been white-washed. We hope to get that done. My husband is a village security officer. We want to save some money and beautify the house.
  • I have two children, I want to educate them so that they could be citizens who will contribute to this country.

 


10) I have a grandson and his mum and dad live up the road and he is thirteen years of age. He is Protestant; his parents are Protestant. And he is called [Patrick].  He plays Gaelic football. He speaks Irish. And he attends St. [Patrick’s] school. Which is a leading Catholic school. And he is a Protestant boy in the school. That is a statement by my daughter, that we don’t just believe what we believe, we believe what we do.

And he is not going to grow up with hatred and bigotry, or anything like that. That is putting your money where your mouth is. That is crossing the divide. And people will say—what is the name of your Grandson? [Patrick], yes! Is that some Irish phrases he is using there? Yes. Is that a Gaelic stick he has got? What school does he go to? St [Patrick’s].

So, that he just doesn’t accept. He hates bigotry, bitterness. And the teachers love him. He is not a thorn in the flesh in the class. And he outscores in RE, he outscores his Catholic boys all around. Which is a source of fun and humor to him.

That is our stake in the future. That is our stake.

From Northern Ireland