13 October 2008

Methodist Fund for World Mission donates £20,000 to help thousands displaced by violence in Sri Lanka

Action has been taken to help people displaced by fighting in Sri Lanka in the form of £20,000 Fund for World Mission grant.

Nearly 200,000 residents in the Wanni region in the north of the country have been trapped by heavy shelling and aerial bombing as violence has intensified over recent weeks.

Rev Ebenezer Joseph, President of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka, made contact with the staff in the World Church Relationships.

'Six of our congregations have been totally displaced and even churches have started vacating from the Kilinochchi town,' he said. 'The movement of displacement is towards the east of Kilinochchi. The civilians are not allowed to cross over into areas controlled by security forces. All NGOs and the UN agencies have withdrawn from this area under the orders of the government. There is a shortage of essential items, fuel and medicines. There is also a shortage of cash. The churches are the only agencies doing some relief work but under severe constraints.'

The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka has called on all its churches to pray for people caught up in the displacement. In a statement, the Sri Lankan Methodist Church asked its members to donate one day's wages and help in the search for volunteers to train as counsellors. The statement also called for a strengthening of chaplaincy work among the military and a continuation of community and interfaith integration.

Revd Peter Pillinger visited Sri Lanka as a British Methodist Church representative to the Sri Lankan Methodist Conference held in Batticaloa in August. 'I was shocked by the conditions the people there live under,' he said. 'I have yet again been amazed by the strength and the fortitude shown by the ministers, evangelists, workers and members who were returning to the north of the island after the conference.

'Perhaps most sad at present is the failure of the government to see the need for more than a military victory. It seems not to see the need to win the hearts and minds of the minority community. The minority community, on their part, seem resigned to the fact that the situation is unlikely to get better.'

Steve Pearce, Partnership Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, said: "I hope that our money will, along with the donations of Sri Lankan Methodists, enable the church to reach out hands of friendship to people who are being forced to leave their houses and their livelihoods and offer them food and shelter. 'I know, however, that the Sri Lankan Methodists will go further than that and continue their prophetic work for peace by offering chaplaincy work to the military and building trust and integration with neighbours of all religions in their communities.'

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