These children want no toys for Christmas - peace and quiet will do
By Marisa de Silva
Nita (12), a child of tortured parents was found in a refugee camp in the North and was re-united with her 3 1/2 year old little sister, Mala, by chance. She had reported the relevant description of her younger sister who was separated from her earlier on to an authority of the camp, and was lucky enough to find her. For her, peace meant seeing her sister again.

Rajan who was torn open from chest to thigh

Meena (8) was holding a little toy gun in her hands, (a gun toting tot in the 'gun-culture' she has had to get used to). She was displaced by attacks on her village in Jaffna and is yet to be re-united with her family. These are everyday stories for the workers of the Family Rehabilitation Centre (FRC), as these are the people they meet day in and day out. People displaced by the war, torture victims, their families and others affected by the war are the average clientele of the FRC. This institution specializes in rehabilitating those exposed to armed conflict through holistic care.

Mr. Chandrishan Perera, Head of Information, FRC, enlightened me on how things were in the war affected areas. He explained the FRC's role in the lives of these people and what their mission was. These people have been affected by the war, which has been a way of life for them for so long, that it's almost impossible for them to get back into the community. "Only when you see them will you understand what they've been through and their struggle to come to terms with this 'unusual bout' of peace" he added.

Trying to lead a normal life

The remarkable story of Rajan (11) is a perfect example of how helping another living being at some point in your life has the strangest way of coming back to help you. Before Rajan was caught in a bomb blast, he had helped save a dog that had been run over by a vehicle. He had collected all of the animal's organs that were hanging out and taken him to a vet. When ironically he was in a similar situation, where he was torn open from chest to upper thigh, he followed the same procedure and awaited help. The dog had survived and so did he. Healing the wounds of war doesn't end at rehabilitating and restoring the lives of those who sacrificed themselves for our country but those who were caught in the middle as well. Who are these people? The children and adults who were victims of terror and torture from both sides of the line. Who thinks of these people at Christmas?

The people residing in these areas have been severely affected, both physically and mentally. The FRC staff try to make their lives just a little more 'livable' by helping them cope with issues like bereavement, displacement, torture etc. They have taken on a mammoth task and it cannot be done alone. The co-operation of all involved parties and the community is definitely an essential part of this process.

The government and relevant authorities should take the initiative to either ensure the betterment of these people or they should aid those already experienced in the field to do their job better. Rehabilitating and re-building the lives of those most affected by the war should be of primary concern.

Everyday is a struggle for them. They have to fight their fear, their sadness, their pain; they have to fight for survival. The hopelessness they've felt over the years and the helplessness to do anything about their plight has to be overcome. This is no easy task, says Mr. Perera. They could use all the help they can get. True peace will only be obtained the day these children get their childhood back, and all these people can go back to living instead of merely existing.

From a personal encounter at a children's workshop conducted by the FRC, Mr. Perera related a touching, thought provoking incident that took place. He explained how they had fathered the children into little groups and asked them to answer a simple question, "What do you want most for Christmas?" Expecting the average child's answer of either dolls, cars, books and the like, he was taken aback by the nearly unanimous response he got of "Saddha nathuwa jeevath wenna..." (To live in peace, without noise). Can we help make their Christmas wish come true?


A new evil imperils the world
By Robert Manne
Islamo-facism has ended our post-Cold War complacency. With September 11 the Pollyanna Decade died. For me, the recognition that some new malevolent spirit was abroad came not only when the World Trade Centre was destroyed but when I heard, a month later, the political sermon on its meaning delivered by Osama bin Laden.

I was born to Jewish parents who fled from Nazi Europe and thereby escaped death in an extermination camp. In my early life I was preoccupied by the Holocaust. When I heard bin Laden's post-September 11 sermon it came from a voice altogether too familiar to me. Like Nazism and communism the ideology of bin Laden divided the world into two camps, between whom an Apocalyptic battle would be waged. For bin Laden the struggle was religious - between what he called, in his sermon, the camps of faith and unbelief.

Bin Laden's fantasies concerned not merely the destruction of Israel or the humiliation of the United States but the defeat of the infidel and the victory of fundamental Islam on a worldwide scale. The enemy he wished to destroy was not the US or Israel but "Americans" and "Jews".

Now that Islamo-fascism has made its rather spectacular appearance on the stage, there can be no serious doubt that it must be fought. The far more difficult question is in what manner and by what means.

At present the US is involved in a fundamental debate about the strategy by which the novel military threat of Islamo-fascism - a potential nuclear or chemical or biological weapons attack on the US - can be overcome. Two parallel strategies have been devised. One involves the creation of a worldwide counter-terrorist coalition aimed at destroying al-Qaeda and its associates. The second involves, in addition, US preventive wars against "rogue states", like Iraq or North Korea, which are thought to be stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and which, it is feared, might ultimately either attack the US directly or pass weapons of mass destruction to an Islamo-fascist terrorist group.

I believe that the first aspect of this strategy must be supported and the second aspect opposed. The advocacy of preventive war is based on an implausible estimation of the likely behaviour of rogue states, whose leaders are brutal but by no means suicidal or mad. In defence of unilateralism and preventive war, the US is likely to destroy the unity of the counter-terrorist coalition and to undermine the most fundamental idea of international law.

On occasions, as with Nazi Germany, wars cannot be avoided. Yet under contemporary conditions war must always, in my opinion, be a policy of last resort. In war the human costs are terrible. In war, moreover, the political consequences simply cannot be foretold.(Sydney Morning Herald )

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