Dishani Jayaweera | Sri Lanka
A dynamic former attorney from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, Dishani left the legal profession in answer to a deeper calling—to work closely with people throughout Sri Lanka to create a peaceful and just society.
Dishani, a Buddhist and Tanenbaum’s first Peacemaker from a non-Abrahamic faith, founded the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) in 2003 with her husband, Dr. Jayantha Seneviratne. Their organization, for which Dishani serves as Executive Director, operates on the belief that the process of building peace begins with individuals. CPBR targets young people and religious leaders, understanding them to be powerful shapers of social attitudes and behaviors in Sri Lanka, and key to bridging religious and ethnic divisions.
In its work, CPBR encourages personal transformations that will in turn empower communities to seek structural and political change. CPBR’s interfaith work promotes understanding among Sinhalese Buddhists, Tamil Hindus, Muslims, and Tamil and Sinhalese Christians through dialogue, training in conflict analysis and transformation, and supporting clergy as they mobilize communities to experience the joy of interdependence and coexistence.
The power of CPBR’s work lies in their process. They truly practice what they preach, ensuring that all decision-making is decentralized and empowering participants to shape the projects. The CPBR team is intentionally diverse, and the entire staff, under Dishani’s guidance, makes a concerted effort to develop deep relationships of trust with the participants in their projects, often traveling to the field to participate in funerals, religious ceremonies, and other events of importance to the communities. This has created an authentic, large, and dedicated network of local peacebuilders; some 400 religious leaders participated in a recent event. Participants of CPBR often list Dishani’s (and Jayantha’s) personal commitment to the project and the respect they received as motivation for their own peacebuilding work.
Dishani continues to develop innovative peacebuilding ideas throughout Sri Lanka. Lately, she has dreamed up new ways to engage the youth population.
- Center for Peace Building and Reconciliation’s “Friends in Need” program provides relief for tsunami survivors: http://www.mercycorps.org/countries/srilanka/10523
- CPBR’s profile on the Peace Direct website.
- A short video by the Coexist Foundation on Dishani’s peacebuilding work.
- A new project, Picturing Peace on IndieGoGo