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Sri Lankan human rights defender to give presentations April 21-22

April 15, 2013
Ruki Fernando

EAU CLAIRE — K.M. Rukshan (Ruki) Fernando, a human rights defender in Sri Lanka, will give presentations at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and in the Eau Claire community April 21-22. The theme of his presentations will be "East Meets West: Human Rights Lessons from Sri Lanka."

Fernando will present a community talk on human rights in the post-war context of Sri Lanka at 6 p.m. April 21 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, located on the corner of Gray and Farwell streets in Eau Claire.

At 3 p.m. April 22, he will speak at an open forum in Room 312 of Schneider Hall at UW-Eau Claire. All events are free and open to the public. During his visit, Fernando also will give guest lectures in several UW-Eau Claire classes.

Fernando currently serves as the chair of Rights Now, a collective of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. His main work is monitoring and documenting human rights violations related to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and disseminating this information to key stakeholders such as government authorities, foreign diplomats, United Nation officials, the media and the general public.

According to Rita Webb, academic adviser for international students at UW-Eau Claire, Fernando's visit is an outgrowth of an International Fellows Program grant that took Webb, faculty co-mentor Stephen Spina of the philosophy and religious studies department and four UW-Eau Claire students to Sri Lanka for a monthlong research and service immersion experience in the summer of 2012.

"Not all our students have the opportunity to participate in such life-changing international experiences, so it is equally important that we bring the world to our campus whenever we can," Webb said. "We are very excited to be able to host Ruki Fernando and to share his work related to human rights protection and advocacy both inside Sri Lanka and in other international forums."

Fernando was the 2009 recipient of the Justice & Peace Award from the Bishop Tji Hak Soon Foundation in Korea. He works as a columnist on firsthand human rights, justice and peace issues for online citizen journals, including the award-winning Groundviews; national Sri Lankan newspapers such as The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Leader and Ravava; and religious publications such as the National Catholic Reporter and the Union of Catholic Asian News.

Fernando's visit is sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire departments of philosophy and religious studies and Academic Advising, with support from the Center for International Education and several other academic departments.

Student researchers on the IFP project will present their Sri Lanka research experience at UW-Eau Claire's 21st annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (formerly Student Research Day) May 1-2, which is sponsored by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

For more information about Fernando's guest lectures or for general information, contact Rita Webb at or 715-836-3487, or Stephen Spina at or 715-836-2932.



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