Reconstruction in Sri Lanka: what the Church of Ceylon is doing

by
02 November 2006

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Sir, - Regarding "Political struggle hinders aid in Sri Lanka after tsunami" ( News, 3 June): I have recently returned from tsunami- relief ministry with the Church of Ceylon in Sri Lanka, through USPG, and at the invitation of the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera. I have seen at first hand just a fraction of the relief work that is being carried out by clergy and lay people throughout the diocese, which extends around the entire coastline of the island.

I was based on the Jaffna peninsular, where there are two large Anglican foundation schools. Their own resources are very limited; nevertheless, the Tamil students (of whom about 20 per cent are Christians) are regularly bringing in contributions in money and kind, which the Chaplain and teachers are distributing to four tsunami-devastated schools on the north and north-east coast, and giving small grants to needy fishing families who have lost their homes, boats, and livelihood.

The Anglican schools are also arranging for pupils who have lost relatives and friends to spend long weekends in their own homes and happy school environment. The possibilities for link-ups in our own parishes through prayer and giving are numerous.

Accompanied by two local clergy, I also visited areas controlled by the LTTE (the Tamil Tigers) and saw the devastation caused by both war and wave. These clergy travel very long distances, often on bicycles or motorcycles in intense heat, to be with people whom others have not yet reached. Members of the Mothers ' Union in Colombo are taking vanloads of supplies to the south and east coastal regions, and running workshops for women trying to cope with looking after babies and children in refugee-camp conditions, with the threat of monsoon rains shortly.

They have gratefully received funding for these missions of mercy from Mary Sumner House.

I returned, feeling deeply privileged and humbled by the long-term dedication shown by the Church of Ceylon, not only to tsunami relief work, but to promoting interfaith co-operation, conflict resolution, and care for the poorest of the poor on their island, which exudes the presence of God in the midst of both beauty and destruction.
HELEN GRIFFISS
Chaplain to the Mothers' Union, diocese of Winchester
St Peter's House, 25 Ashley Common Road, New Milton BH25 5AJ

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