Sri Lanka has pledged to champion the Peace at the Crease initiative, which uses the popularity of cricket as a means to promote peace and development among communities across the 53-member states.
Sri Lankan Minister of Provincial Councils, Local Government and Sports, Faiszer Musthapha made the offer during discussions with Commonwealth Secretary-General in Colombo about innovative ways to collaborate with the Secretariat. This would complement the Commonwealth’s current work in supporting the Government to develop a strategy and plan to enhance, and better quantify, the contribution sport makes to national development priorities in the country.
The minister reflected on his personal experience to underline the importance of cricket in unifying people in the times of peace as well as during conflict. “During the war, there was a greater hostility among the communities in Sri Lanka but our iconic cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan united everyone. Every time, it came to him, nobody was able to take sides, everyone stood as one,” he said.
The Secretary-General described cricket as a healing tool which provides an opportunity to encourage social cohesion and eliminate barriers. She briefed the minister on the launch of the Peace at the Crease initiative, which included the first Commonwealth Community Cricketing Cup between Vatican IX and a multi-faith Commonwealth team in London on 9 July.
“We took the idea of bringing different faiths together and combining it with the Commonwealth’s passion for cricket to use the sport as a tool for peace and development. This is how we came up with this initiative with a keen emphasis on the community level, engaging all faiths, genders, age groups and nationalities,” she said.
The minister suggested that future Commonwealth Community Cricketing Cups, held as part of the Peace at the Crease initiative, should take place in rural areas and engage two iconic players from various Commonwealth countries. He said he considered it his national duty and believed it would be a unique platform for reconciliation for member countries.
Each Commonwealth Community Cricket Cup match will have a specific theme to raise awareness of and address key development challenges in the Commonwealth.
Secretary-General Scotland said, “In the Caribbean, leaders have said that they would host a series of cricket matches to highlight the existential threat of climate change. They call it ‘Peace at the Crease’ because it is about all members of the community coming together in peace with the purpose of tackling the threat of climate change.
“These matches will bring people together through the cricket. It will provide people with an opportunity to fight back, heal and raise money for the resilience to build back better."
The minister emphasised the importance of the Secretariat’s support to Sri Lanka include promoting good governance in sports and helping the country revamp its constitution for sports’ bodies.
Both agreed on having renowned Commonwealth cricketers as the flag bearers of this initiative. They highlighted that bringing cricket to rural communities would draw attention to the country's developmental needs in a way that is consistent with the Commonwealth’s commitment to using sport as a tool to promote peace and development across the member states.