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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Sri Lanka peace play reaches out
By Rajyasri Rao
BBC correspondent in Delhi

An unique Sri Lankan theatre troupe has been staging a play on war and displacement in the Indian capital Delhi.

Sunethra Bandaranaike
Ms Bandaranaike hopes to give an insight into the civil war
The 50-member troupe consists of able-bodied and disabled people including war refugees and soldiers from the island nation's two decade long civil war.

They have been conveying a message of peace and reconciliation.

"What is happening in Iraq is undoubtedly hideous," the chairperson of the foundation that runs the troupe, Sunethra Bandaranaike, told the BBC.

"Our play, inspired by the civil war my country has seen, reaches out to all such nations in conflict - dramatising the horrors of war while highlighting the ability of those worst-hit to heal each other at its end."

Helping each other

Ms Bandaranaike, who is the Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga's sister, said the project did raise doubts at first. "We did wonder how it would work out - having people who have suffered as civilians from the war working and living and performing alongside soldiers.

Members of the troupe
Members of the troupe have first-hand experiences
"But it has been absolutely unbelievable and marvellous. They not only get along but some even tend to each other helping nurse each other back to some semblance of normalcy."

The theatre group was begun at first to address the special needs of Sri Lanka's physically and mentally disadvantaged people.

But within a year it also began focusing on people from Sri Lanka's war-ravaged east.

"We now have up to 15 people who were picked from refugee camps there and our theatrical productions are very much a narration of their experiences along with those of the soldiers who have both suffered from the civil war," Ms Bandaranaike said.

She said troupe members and their families have found recovering from the psychological effects of the war far easier through creative and collaborative work like this with other victims of the conflict rather than psychotherapy sessions.


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