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UM Panel: Bathing Elephants and Making Democracy Work in Sri Lanka

A panel of Ole Miss journalism students who spent a week in Sri Lanka will reveal what they learned at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss.
Eleven students traveled to Sri Lanka in August to report on challenges faced by the world’s newest emerging democracy, the result of a newly elected reform government seeking to heal the wounds left over from a brutal civil war that stretched over nearly three decades. The government’s efforts are hampered by a strong current of Buddhist nationalism and crushing debt to China and other major creditors.
The students wrote stories all over the island, reporting from the capital city of Colombo, tsunami-ravaged beaches, small towns buried by mudslides, and fishing and farming villages scratching their way out of poverty. They also witnessed one of Asia’s biggest Buddhist festivals, toured tea plantations and helped bathe elephants in a mountain stream. And despite the raw ethnic tensions between Hindus and Buddhists that helped spark the civil war, they found ample evidence of cooperation and good will among adherents of both faiths in countless small villages in the countryside.
“Most Americans don’t even know where Sri Lanka is, but it offers lessons for governments everywhere. Against all odds, in this roiled and unpredictable world political climate, they are making democracy work,” Overby Fellow Bill Rose said.
Rose accompanied the students, along with Journalism Instructor Ji Hoon Heo and Will Norton, dean of the Meek School for Journalism and New Media.
Heo will show examples of some of the extraordinary video and photographs the students took while exploring this ancient civilization, including the exotic marathon Esala Perahera, an ancient Buddhist festival in an old royal capital deep in the central highlands.
The trip is just the latest in a series of reporting trips sponsored by a Meek School program that produces in-depth magazines and websites, several of which have won national awards, including three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, given each year to the best collegiate magazine journalism in America.
The panelists will talk about what they learned and invite questions from the audience. Rose and Heo will serve as moderators for the discussion.
The event is free and open to the public.

Chi Kalu is a graduate assistant with the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

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