23 September 2023

Australian Christians urged to pray, support Sri Lanka

Church organisations are running soup kitchens in Sri Lanka as the economic crisis deepens. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

18 July 2022

A Sri Lankan Christian organisation says prayer and material aid is the best way to support the population’s plight.

Sri Lanka’s economy has been in meltdown for months leading to severe fuel and food shortages, the shuttering of schools and businesses and the country teetering on a humanitarian crisis.

Anti-government protests turned violent in the last week and triggered a state of emergency.

It came after the country’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled without resigning and appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the provisional leader.

According to a 2012 report from the UN expert panel, under Mr Wickremesinghe’s watch the Sri Lankan government had committed some actions that may have constituted atrocities against the Tamil population.

Back to the Bible Christian bookshop director Dr Mayukha Perera said prayer was needed for Sri Lanka’s citizens, the government and for the Church, as the crisis was challenging them on every front.

He also said material aid was vital, but that people should be discerning about who they provided it to and how they provided it.

A former officer of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Dr Perera spoke to The Melbourne Anglican from Colombo about the situation.

He said failed government policies along with the president’s incompetence and corruption had led to difficulty and suffering that was affecting everyone.

Dr Perera also said Sri Lanka’s currency had lost value, there were import restrictions, and the cost of living had skyrocketed amid hyperinflation.

Because of that people had been left without fuel for transport and electricity, and were also struggling to get gas for cooking, he said.

Dr Perera was particularly alarmed that the mood of some previously peaceful protestors had soured.

Read more: Melbourne Anglicans join to pray for peace in Ukraine

“Everybody was behind the protest to get rid of the corrupt president and his people, but now there are moves by some to use violence like attempt to take over the parliament building, and setting fire to the prime minister’s residence, which is going down a dangerous road,” he said.

He said the world community of Christians could pray for Sri Lankans who were suffering and for those who had become deeply angered, as well as for the elected parliamentary representatives.

But Dr Perera also asked people to consider the Christian churches in the country.

Many church organisations were stepping up and being channels of food distribution, opening soup kitchens and giving cash to support people.

He noted they had the motivation and energy to keep helping for the long term whereas most other types of organisations would give up after a while.

So, communities outside Sri Lanka could also support some of those Christian projects to get provisions to people who were facing difficulties, he said.

The Anglican Church in Sri Lanka has called for more conscientious action and restraint from those in power, the protestors and the armed forces, in recent days.

Read more: Anglican efforts in Africa weakened by Ukraine crisis

In a statement Presiding Bishop Keerthisiri Fernando of the Church of Ceylon, and the Bishop of Colombo Dushantha Rodrigo expressed their concern about the events, and the inability of the Parliament to manage the crisis.

“The state of emergency should not be used to suppress the fundamental rights of our people or cause harm to peaceful assembly. We call on the people to remain calm in the face of turmoil and resist any attempts to destroy state property,” the bishops said.

Dr Perera also urged people who were going to provide material aid to be sure of who they were sending money to and to send it through the proper channels.

They could specify the project it was going towards and ask for a report or accountability to ensure the money would be used for the purpose it was intended.

He also said it might be helpful that the banks had become more cautious about what was being wired into accounts, because of the threat of money laundering.

In the meantime, Dr Perera said he was still managing to keep his business running.

“For a while we were able to put diesel in our generator and have power. But now we can’t get diesel, so when the power is out, we sit in darkness. We’ve moved to a couple of days of working from home because of transport difficulties and staff are not able to come to work, or it’s very difficult and costly. So, we have to make adjustments,” he said.

“Sri Lankans are resilient people and we find ways of doing what needs to be done, but it is unfortunate.”

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