This situation is just part of the economic turmoil that Sri Lanka finds itself in as the country continues to suffer at the hands of corrupt government officials. Foreign Policy Magazine describes the economic situation as worse than the one the COVID pandemic created.
The more extreme protestors have clashed with police and broken down barriers, with some even infiltrating the Prime Minister’s residence; Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaska barely escaped and has since resigned his position. Out of fear for his life, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country before ultimately resigning, also. Sri Lanka is flirting with bankruptcy, inflation is near 70% and even owning a liter of gasoline has become a luxury. But among all the chaos, need and political fallout, how is the Church faring in Sri Lanka?
A country where Christians take a backseat
Sri Lanka has a constitution that gives Buddhism preferred status over other religions, a view widely shared across the country. Additionally, Christian churches are frequently opposed by neighbors, and local officials sometimes demand they close their buildings. The Christian minority is partly tolerated, but converts to Christianity are not.
However, through the ongoing turmoil and unrest, churches are stepping up, not stepping back, and doing what they can to reflect Christ’s peace and rest. Churches in the capital city of Colombo and its suburbs are leading prayer walks and small-scale community services—anything they can do to ease the tensions and frustration the whole nation is feeling. In fact, the actions of many Christians show that their faith has not been shaken; they are willing to give and be generous with the little they have.
Practicing their faith has become more challenging
But the situation in Sri Lanka remains dire. There are daily power cuts and shortages of fuel, medicine, and other essentials. According to our partners on the ground, many families in Sri Lanka have been forced to cut down to one meal per day, and for some, a cup of tea is all that’s for dinner.
There are many churches that have reached out to our local partners for help. Our partners have been able to provide some relief for many low-income households across Sri Lanka. Our local partners have also been working relentlessly to strengthen the church through training programs. Though the protests have been taking place in Colombo, our partners are still able to carry out trainings in other parts of the country.
Yet, with the ongoing fuel crisis, public transportation has been affected, and there are only a limited number of buses and trains in operation. A lot of believers are finding it extremely challenging to gather on Sundays. Several training programs and events, that were organized by our partners, had to be postponed as believers and pastors were finding it hard to join due to the unavailability of fuel and public transport.
Pastor Hasika, a local pastor in Sri Lanka, shared that her husband has been so exhausted from just getting in line for fuel. “Sometimes he goes to the petrol queue at 6 a.m. and returns late in the evening with an empty can because they ran out of fuel,” she said.
The lack of fuel has made it extremely difficult to visit the homes of new believers, she says. “With the ongoing fuel crisis and shortage of public transport, travelling has become a major issue. There were instances where I had to walk nearly 10 kilometers to visit certain families.”
Amazingly, Pastor Hasika also went on to add, “It is hard to come to church in the midst of this crisis, but I sense that the Lord is doing a new thing among us.”