Church United: Crossing Ethnic Lines in Sri Lanka
By Steven & Peggy Beverly, Global Strategy Missionary to Sri Lanka
Editor’s Note: The Ministry Sustainability project in Sri Lanka is one of the four projects featured during Global Strategy’s 2018 impactX2 year-end campaign. To learn more about the Sri Lanka Ministry Sustainability project, click here, or visit the project page here.
When most of us think of civil war, we think of the civil war in the United States, which lasted four years. We tend to think of it as a distant chapter of American history. Sri Lanka’s civil war between the minority ethnic Tamil Tigers and the majority Sinhalese government forces lasted for twenty-five years and ended just nine years ago in 2009. The bloody war was characterized by brutal treatment of civilians and combatants on both sides, with a casualty count of 100,000.
Many Tamil villages were literally wiped off the map. Sri Lankans look back on the civil war and grimly recall the curfews, the military checkpoints, the disappearances of loved ones who would never be seen again, and the constant threat of military or terrorist action. Both Tamil and Sinhalese Sri Lankans lived in a state of war for a quarter century; for young adults, that was most of their lives.
Civil war is not a distant memory for Sri Lankans. The effects of the war are deep, affecting everything from infrastructure to wildlife to, of course, relations between Tamils (mostly Hindu) and Sinhalese (mostly Buddhist) ethnic groups. The Church of God in Sri Lanka is providing infrastructure assistance to a newly established Tamil resettlement area, establishing a church in another ravaged area that was caught between warring factions, evangelizing in Tamil communities, and providing educational assistance for Tamil-speaking pastors.
The uneasy tension between Tamil and Sinhalese Sri Lankans inevitably spills over into the church. In, fact, the church is one of the few places you will find Tamil and Sinhalese together with a sense of unity of purpose. The Church of God in Sri Lanka comprises pastors of both ethnic groups, and both groups are learning to overcome hurt, suspicion, anger, resentment, and loss to work together to build the kingdom of God in Sri Lanka. The apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians is a lifeline to the unity of the Church of God in Sri Lanka:
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. (Ephesians 4:2-4 NLT)
Please continue to pray for the healing and growth of the Church of God in Sri Lanka!