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Sri LankaBy Michael Ireland – ASSIST News Service

From a variety of meetings with government leaders, human rights lawyers, leaders of Civil Society the statement was consistent: “the Christian Church must lead us in reconciliation.”

(Sri Lanka)—The aftermath of Sri Lanka’s three decades-old armed conflict has displaced more than 300,000 people who are in desperate conditions.

A team of diplomats, business leaders, and church leaders from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States recently visited the island on a fact-finding mission.

Its mission was to learn about Sri Lankan humanitarian needs, to encourage fellow Christian leaders, and to build bridges of understanding with non-evangelical Christians, other faiths, and governmental leaders.

The June 1-5, 2009 mission was organized by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), an association of national alliances in 128 countries, in response to an invitation by Christian leaders in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, member of the board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church, was part of the nine-person international peace-building/goodwill mission to Sri Lanka.

The Wesleyan Church has had a presence in Sri Lanka, a country that is less than one percent Christian, since 1993, according to a media release.

According to the media release, General Superintendent Lyon said, “Meeting with our Wesleyan leaders, I was once more reminded of the incredible faith it takes to live in the midst of persecution and harassment.”

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA General Secretary and International Director, said: “The Church is called to be salt and light and rarely have I seen such dedication to extending God’s love to non-Christian communities, despite logistical difficulties and real personal danger to themselves.”

Rev. Godfrey Yogarajah of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka welcomed the end of hostilities. He commented: “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!”

Superintendent Lyon represents The Wesleyan Church as well as the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in this endeavor. She further noted from her past experience in working in Sri Lanka during the tsunami, that the Christian Church is ideally placed to lead reconciliation initiatives.

“In fact,” she stated, “among major faiths the Christian Church is unique in having both Tamil and Sinhalese members.”

From a variety of meetings with government leaders, human rights lawyers, leaders of Civil Society the statement was consistent: “the Christian Church must lead us in reconciliation.”

It was noted by a Sri Lankan human rights lawyer that, “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have not worked in a non-Christian country.”

The news release stated that as in many post-war situations, particularly one which 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 Chair 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.”

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