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Diocese Faces Post-Tsunami Challenges
CEYLON 060509-1
May 9, 2006

From the Relief and Rehabilitation Desk

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] 

St. Matthias Day 2006

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Sri Lanka! Having celebrated God’s transforming grace at Easter just weeks ago, we are currently experiencing a sudden upsurge in violence in many parts of the country. We pray that God’s love of peace will be made known to the powerful in Sri Lanka.

The tsunami provided us an opportunity to examine the Diocesan development work through the lens of interfaith and interethnic relationships. Particularly, we have been able to fund advocacy and human rights ventures, which also promote cultural and religious understanding. The tsunami also provided us an opportunity to equip the Diocese to handle disasters. We conducted a few disaster management workshops last year, but plan to facilitate a more comprehensive residential seminar later this summer for all our clergy.

The Diocese continues to struggle with our housing programme. Although we have repaired 241 houses in the East and are at present engaged in small housing construction programmes in the South, we have not yet been able to embark on any significant building projects in the North, South or East. We are currently exploring some possibilities and hope to write more encouraging news in our next communiqué.

Our more recent livelihood projects, such as home-gardening, poultry farming and block-making sheds, have intended to target communities as opposed to individuals so that we can provide long-term sustainable development options to entire villages. These projects have avoided duplication, curtailed an administration burden and incorporated all populations in the areas.

On the personal front, we are partly-funding sabbaticals for our Archdeacons in the tsunami-areas, all three of whom, have tirelessly worked for the past 18 months coordinating R&R efforts in all the affected regions under their leadership. We also were fortunate to participate in two consultations, one in Thailand and the other in United States, sponsored by our dedicated partner - Episcopal Relief & Development. The consultation in Thailand was a forum to learn best-practices and share experiences with teams from other tsunami-affected countries. Our speaking engagements in the USA gave us an opportunity to share the R&R work of the Diocese and explain the religious, ethnic and political contexts of undertaking development work in Sri Lanka.

We wish to end with a story from our recent preparations for our programmes abroad. As the Diocese had maintained a ‘no-photos’ policy in our efforts to minimize unnecessary publicity, we sent out requests to clergy and laity for some pictures as we realized a need for some photographs. Visual aids seem always to be more powerful than words in presentations. In our appeal, one photo was incredibly powerful. Taken in the East, 40 days after the tsunami was a fallen tree surrounded by the rubble of a destroyed school. The tree was blossoming with small white flowers. This is our message this Eastertide. Amidst destruction, God brings us new life. Amidst hate, God brings us love. Amidst despair, God brings us hope. Amidst the sadness of the tsunami, God brought us all of you!

The Diocese of Colombo wishes you the warmest of Easters!

Enclosed is a brief narrative of our work.

With peace and blessings,

Your friends at the R&R desk