Thousands of Sri Lankans, like the men shown here, have been forced from their homes due to the fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.
Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries, workers and lay leaders are reaching out to thousands of Sri Lankans displaced by the most recent battles between the government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group. The United Nations estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by the conflict. They are crowded onto a tiny strip of land that has been designated by the government as a "safe zone."
Workers representing GFA are providing for the needs of people in the government-run camps. The workers are delivering sandals for the people, many of whom wore out their own sandals walking to the camps. They are also providing books for the makeshift schools operating in the camps, along with food.
The government is not allowing volunteers to visit the camps because they cannot guarantee their safety. However, GFA workers in that area have petitioned the government for permission to visit the camps and offer assistance. A doctor working in the camp described the situation to a BBC journalist.
"The situation is difficult to explain. There is no food, no water supply, no toilet facilities, and no safe area. They are staying under the trees, everywhere. We need more than 400 or 500 tons of food a week, but we are receiving only 60 tons. And there's only rice and dahl (Asian lentils). It's not enough for these people. There's no milk formula for the children, no vegetables, no meat, nothing," Dr. T. Varatharaja said.
There are reports of individual believers ministering to the people in the camps. These believers are thought to be among the displaced themselves and are offering spiritual comfort to their peers.
The conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers dates back to 1971. The Tamils, who represent the country's religious minority, want a separate homeland.
The Tamil movement began peacefully, but it escalated into an ongoing violent civil war. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan government captured the town of Kilinochchi, which had been a Tamil stronghold for 10 years. The intense fighting led to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis as people caught in the battle attempted to escape. Civilian casualties are still mounting.
News reports from the area describe May 9 and 10 as a "bloodbath" in which 400 people were killed and another 1,000 were injured in the fighting. The Tamils are accused of using civilians as human shields. There are also reports that the Sri Lankan Army has inadvertently fired upon innocent civilians, including an attack on a hospital, which left 49 people dead.
An estimated 70,000 people have been killed during the last 10 years of the conflict.
The government says that the Tamil-controlled area is now down to five kilometers in the country's northeast. The Tamils are appealing to the United States to mediate the conflict.
GFA leaders in Sri Lanka shared the following prayer requests:
- Pray for the civilians who are suffering and for the injured, both civilians and soldiers. Many people have lost limbs in the fighting.
- Pray for the families of those who have died in the conflict.
- Pray that the government would give GFA workers permission to visit the safe zone and provide for the needs of the people.
- Pray that food shipments would be able to get in. One large shipment had to turn back because of heavy fighting.
- Pray for the churches and GFA-supported pastors who work in that area.
- Pray for wisdom for GFA leaders in Sri Lanka.
- Pray for an end to the war.