|PIC1|As fighting persists in war-torn Sri Lanka, Christian groups are stepping up to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians who are in urgent need of food and clean water.
“This emergency has the potential to claim as many lives from lack of food and water as from conflict,” said Joanne Fairley, Lutheran World Relief’s regional director for Asia and the Middle East, in a statement released Monday.
LWR had already committed $50,000 in response to the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, but it is appealing for an additional $500,000 from donors to meet the critical need as the conflict worsens.
The ministry’s partners on the ground are helping to distribute items such as water, food and needed non-food products to civilians affected by the violence. LWR and its local partners plan to provide food and other emergency items to more than 15,000 people for the next three months.
“The entire situation in Sri Lanka remains unstable,” Fairley said. “Our first priority is to ensure that people have what they need to survive.”
International Christian aid agency World Vision is also committed to providing food to internally displaced people. More than 25,000 people have received food packets from the ministry in recent weeks, and 700 families have received hospital care packs. Also everyday the Christian ministry distributes nearly 100,000 liters of water to various camp sites.
According to the United Nations, some 200,000 are in refugee camps and waiting for relief assistance. An estimated 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the war zone.
Aid and rights groups have accused the separatists Tamil Tigers of using civilians as human shields, but the rebels deny the allegation.
The rebels have fought the Sri Lanka government for more than 20 years to create a separate state for minority Tamils, who suffer discrimination from the Sinhalese majority government, they claim.
In recent months, however, fighting has intensified as the government made concerted efforts to completely defeat the rebels. On Tuesday, the Sri Lanka prime minister said government troops have trapped the Tamil Tigers in a tiny stretch of coastline and will not let its leader escape.
An estimated 6,500 people have been killed in the past three months in the civil war, the United Nations says.
“Our country is experiencing the worst of this disaster at the moment,” said Bible League’s national director of ministry for Sri Lanka, whose name was not released.
“This war has destroyed the normal lives of people, especially in the north,” the ministry leader highlighted. “Apart from deaths among the fighting parties, members of the general public are being killed and wounded almost every day. People are helpless.”
The Sri Lanka-based staff further noted that many people have lost everything while fleeing the conflict. Hundreds of Christians who are living in refugee camps do not have anything, including their Bibles.
In response, Bible League staff and volunteers are working in the war-torn north to put Bibles in the hands of displaced Christians and offer Bible studies. Since 2003, more than 15,000 Sri Lankan have completed such Bible studies.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Sri Lanka’s population is 69 percent Buddhist, 7.6 percent Muslim, 7.1 percent Hindu, and 6.2 percent Christian. The religious affiliation of the remaining 10 percent is unspecified.
Christian aid groups committed to war victims in Sri Lanka
Published 06 May 2009 | Ethan Cole, Christian Post