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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
Standing on the Great Tsunami-stricken Area in Sri Lanka
Rev. Francis H. Akiba, Kita-Kantoh Diocese
JAPAN 060403-1
April 3, 2006

What is the Basic Attitude of “Aid”?

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan] In July 2005, we made an inspection tour to Batticaloa, Eastern Region of Sri Lanka, six months after the great tsunami attack on 26th December 2004. A number of residents have returned to their home place by the seashore where they used to live.

In front of a house, there were a several people getting together. The house itself seemed to have been partially damaged. However, one of the people told me, “Here lived a family, father, mother and their 3 children. Although the parents narrowly escaped death, their three children could not escape the tsunami. The parents could hardly endure the loss of their three children, and killed themselves by taking poison; one died and the other was sent to hospital. This happened eight days ago.”

Those who gathered were relatives of the tragic parents. Everyone of them has lost someone in his/her family members. A man sitting beside the well said, “I want to die. All my family members died, I am the only one survived.”

A number of NGOs were building temporary houses. It is understood that clothing, food, and housing are considerably well supported. However, mental care for the bereaved who are overwhelmed with grief have not been fully given. We deeply considered how to do with those people in grief.

Batticaloa is the place where lengthy civil conflict has been continued between two races, Sinhalese and the Tamils, and for the last 20 years, the conflict has become more and more severe. The hatred between the two races is so deep that there will be almost no possibility of reconciliation. One of the male Tamils told me that he met the current Tsunami attack just after the conflict had become severe. He was attacked by the Sinhali policemen in the midnight as he helped a woman who was about to be violated by Sinhali policemen. Children were killed by hand-grenades; all the survivors have their arms amputated at the upper arms; they did have no compensations at all for these losses. It is reported that a number of such cases have happened every day in this area on both sides.

Presently, Batticaloa is governed by the Sinhalis, and supportive goods from all over the world are kept back by the government, so that the goods have scarcely been distributed to the Tamils. Once we stepped in the area where the Tamils are living, the scenery has suddenly appeared to be dilapidated. A number of refugees from the civil conflicts used to live in small huts covered by palm leaves, but now because of the tsunami attack, these huts were abandoned here and there. Thus, in Sri Lanka, people have already experienced hardships, and there has been a long history of hatred, if not attacked by the Tsunami.

Sri Lanka was once known as a country of tourism, and they basked in the benefit of foreign currency. Seashores are attractive and there is a treasure of wild animals in the highland area. Smart hotels for foreign tourists have reconstructed and already commenced business. On the other hand, I heard from a local newspaper staff about pedophilia, that some tourists buy local boys and girls for sexual relation. Poverty makes young children scapegoats. It was reported shockingly that the youngest one was only 5-years old. Sri Lanka as well as Thailand and Cambodia is said to be famous for pedophilic industry. Tourism accompanied with pedophilia has caused destruction of families and community in this country.

It is needless to say that emergency aid for the tsunami damage is imperative. However, I must say that long-term sustainable financial support, as well as a reconstruction project, are the immediate needs for this country. The important thing is that the project would require not only financial support but also personal resources. We would send proper personnel to the place in trouble, who should live there with the villagers, and discuss with them what are the immediate necessity. Listening carefully to their real voices, we, as a donor, will decide the best way to support them.

I would like to suggest that church-to-church or diocese-to-diocese financial aids, which we have so far practiced, are not appropriate. We have to establish a new means of aids, that is, the emergency aids must be organized in a face-to-face relationship. In such countries as Sri Lanka where a number of problems exist in layers and tangled, new way and form of “aid” are imperative. Otherwise, we cannot establish a true relationship with this country.

In order to make our church activated, we have to reach out a helping hand to Sri Lanka through face-to-face relationship and seek for a new way to live together with them on the same face of the earth.