The International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has called on Christians worldwide to help the Sri Lankan church meet the overwhelming humanitarian crisis affecting their country.
The aftermath of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-old armed conflict has displaced more than 300,000 people who are desperately in need of food, medical assistance and other basic needs. They include malnourished children, pregnant and lactating mothers and the elderly.
“Despite being a small minority, the Christian community is valiantly and sacrificially giving to meet these needs, but urgently requires assistance from their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world if they are to complete their task”, said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, of the WEA. “The church is called to be salt and light and rarely have I seen such dedication in extending God’s love to non-Christian communities, despite logistical difficulties and real personal danger to themselves.”
Tunnicliffe travelled to Sri Lanka, from 1 to 6 June, with a high level international delegation of Christian leaders and diplomats in order to meet with a wide range of faith, civil society and political leaders.
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), the Sri Lankan chapter of the WEA, is presently feeding over 10,000 people every day at a cost of US$1.50 per person per day for basic food. However there are many thousands who still need food and no one is sure how long it will be before the government is able to allow the displaced Sri Lankans to return home
Rev Godfrey Yogarajah of the NCEASL welcomed the end of hostilities. “As a Christian I have hope for the future of Sri Lanka. But the danger is that, now that the headlines highlighting the war are reducing, the world will forget about those who continue to be affected. For us the real work is only now beginning!”
Jo Anne Lyon, a member of the delegation representing the National Association of Evangelicals in the USA, said, “The NCEASL and other church groups, all of whom proved themselves during the Tsunami relief in 2005, are ideally placed to lead reconciliation initiatives in Sri Lanka. This is because amongst major faiths the Christian church is unique in having both Tamil and Sinhalese members.”
The NCEASL is implementing grassroots reconciliation initiatives, such as the Young Ambassadors program, to bring communities together after so many years of ethnic conflict. They are also talking with the national Evangelical Alliances in Canada and the UK to support work needed to engage with and reconcile the Sri Lankan diaspora communities. The diaspora played a facilitating role in perpetuating the conflict in their motherland.
As in many post-war situations, particularly one that has ended so recently, some elements are still intent on intimidation, including intimidation of the church, civil society and the media. John Langlois, a former member of the Guernsey, Channel Islands, parliament and Chairman of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission said, “I ask all Christians to join us in praying for those, including church leaders, who have been harassed and threatened, especially within the minority communities”.
For more details on the humanitarian relief and how to donate, or the Youth Ambassador program please see: www.nceasl.org.