|Letter from the Bishop of Colombo
Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
August 7, 2007
Published in the May-June issue of The Ceylon Churchman, the bi-monthly magazine
of the Church of Ceylon
[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon]
My dear Sisters and Brothers,
Visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop Rowan Williams who is also our Metropolitan was on a brief visit to us in May. Archbishop Rowan was on a planned visit to Malaysia when part of his programme there was cancelled at the last minute. We quickly accepted his offer to visit us for those three days. He had a packed programme for the brief period he was with us from the evening of 7th May to the night of 10th May.
Apart from a programme in Kurunagala, Archbishop Rowan celebrated and preached at our Cathedral, met the clergy and people of the our Diocese, visited the Deaf and Blind Schools in Ratmalana and St Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. He also had meetings with religious leaders, the Leader of the Opposition, the President of Sri Lanka and met a cross-section of civil society leaders, particularly from the North and East. Given the very short period he was here, he had a reasonable exposure to the life of our people and the respective responses of the church and state. We in turn benefited from having and interacting with a person of such deep intellect and spirituality.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that he has a family connection with Sri Lanka. His wife Jane's parents were married at St Paul's Church, Kandy. Archbishop Rowan has promised to visit us again with his family.
Our nation is going through a critical phase with little positive direction. We seem to be moving further and further away from finding a solution to our ethnic problem which can only be resolved politically. The vast mass of our people have to bear harsh economic burdens. Corruption is unprecedented. The security situation is worrying; the fear of bombs and mines, abductions and conscriptions and targeted killings have become real for all people. Our political leaders must replace rhetoric and party political manoeuvres with providing meaningful solutions to the problems faced by the people. Undoubtedly, the three most important problems are to find a negotiated political solution to the ethnic issue, bring down the cost of living and arrest the widely spreading corruption. Once these problems are dealt with in an acceptable manner, the resolution of most of our other problems will fall into place.
As I have said earlier, all this violence and human suffering did not happen overnight. We are the inheritors of a tragic strategy of populist and insensitive political strategies that intimidate and dehumanise people and communities. But we must not lose hope. We are called to rise to a new life of integrity and integration with our neighbour. We have a responsibility to develop a moral force towards peace. Injustice and discrimination must be highlighted; the afflicted, irrespective of ethnic identity, must be supported with dignity, and those in authority must be challenged. I encourage all our churches to draw up and implement programmes of meditation, prayer and trust-building for peace.
We had a very rewarding clergy conference over the last three days of May. The Revd Dr Mark Chapman, Vice Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford was our guest lecturer and gave us a series of educative talks on the theme "Anglicanism: Past, Present and Future". These sessions were interspersed with other educative sessions led by our clergy, times of fellowship (inter-deanery cricket won by the Jaffna deanery and a fellowship dinner at Bishop's House) and sustained by the cycle of prayer and worship. Fr Mark also gave a public lecture on the current crisis in the Communion over the issue of human sexuality. We are grateful to him for his contribution and to him and his wife Linda who accompanied him.
A new Audiology Centre has been opened in the premises of the School for the Deaf, Ratmalana. The Centre with its modern equipment is open to the public and will go a long way in the detection and treatment of those with hearing impairment. We are grateful to Dialog Telekom who generously financed the setting up of this Centre.
It gave me joy to install the Revd Jameson Gnanaponrajah as the new Principal of St John's College on 10th April. He, like his predecessor Mr Thanapalan, has been associated with the school as student, teacher and Vice Priincipal before becoming Principal. We wish him, Evangeline and the children every blessing as he takes on these new responsibilities for which he has the experience and appropriate skills.
I was privileged to participate three significant events over the recent months. The "Towards Effective Anglican Mission" Conference in Boksburg South Africa from 7th to 14th March drew Anglican leaders from around the world to address the Church's prophetic witness and mission in social development. The agenda included our response to poverty, gender issues, HIV and AIDS. I was invited in April to lead the Biblical and theological reflection at the triennial assembly of the Council of Churches of Malaysia held in Johor Bahru. In May, immediately after Archbishop Rowan's visit here, I participated at a very challenging consultation on Theological Education for the Anglican Communion held in Singapore. Our sessions addressed the teaching content and resources for theological education and formation in the world Anglican Communion and also make some preparations for Lambeth 2008. I am happy to be part of a continuing assignment in theological formation that resulted from the consultation.
I am grateful to Archdeacon Dhiloraj Canagasabey who acts as my Commissary when I am out of the country.
During the past few months, I have held confirmation services at the Church of the Ascension Matara, Church of the Resurrection Molkawa, St Mark's Badulla, St Nicholas' Trincomalee, St John's Rakwana and St John's Kalutara. Geetha and I thank all the clergy and people of these congregations for the warmth and good will with which we are received. As always, we are encouraged by the witness and mission of our people and the leadership of our clergy and lay wardens.
I thank Bishop Kenneth for the confirmation service he led at St Mark's Dandugama in my absence.
With Peace and Blessings.
Yours very sincerely,
+ Duleep Colombo