Urgent prayer needed for Sri Lankan Christians

April 5, 2022 by Christopher Summers in Persecution updates

The Christian community of Sri Lanka is asking for your urgent prayers.

“The country is in total chaos,” says Sunil*, an Open Doors partner in Sri Lanka. “Pastors in our network have been calling us asking for help to make ends meet.”

On April 1, the President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, declared a state of emergency. The proclamation allowed authorities to make arrests without warrants, enter and search property, seize property, suspend laws and issue orders that cannot be questioned in court. This announcement was made after people, both young and old, flooded the streets leading up to the president’s residence on the night of March 31.

“Over the past few days, the hashtag #GoHomeGota has been flooding social media platforms as people unanimously demanded the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign from duty,” Sunil says. “Protests are drawing larger crowds and the are growing angrier with each passing day. Long lines for gas, diesel and gas cylinders have become a common sight all over the island, and people are struggling to make ends meet as inflation soars. Daily power cuts have lasted up to 13 hours per day last week, disrupting people’s daily lives significantly.” Additionally, protestors are demonstrating against food shortages that have left people in desperate need.

What started off as a protest soon turned violent as the police retaliated by spraying tear gas and firing water cannons at the protestors, and people set fire to several police vehicles in response. Subsequently, the police arrested 54 protesters, some of whom were labeled “extremists” by state media. But people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status, expressed solidarity with the protestors. Following the arrests, lawyers showed up at the police station to provide legal aid free of charge.

When photos and videos of police officers attacking protestors and journalists emerged on various social media platforms, it sparked nationwide outrage—and in response, President Rajapaksa issued an island-wide curfew.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) released a statement expressing “deep concern over the recent developments in the country, particularly the declaration of a state of emergency, and the sudden imposition of an Island-wide curfew.”

They urged the government to “desist from imposing restrictions on peaceful protests,” and encouraged them “to revoke the state of emergency and prioritize finding viable solutions” to the economic crisis. Since the statement, the president has revoked the state of emergency, but the situation is still incredibly uncertain—and Sri Lankan believers are asking us to pray.

What’s happening to Christians

4 ways you can pray

Sri Lanka Christians sent us prayer requests to share with you—even as they worship by flashlight during power cuts (see photo to the right). Pray for the rising cost of living. Everything from milk to rice to vegetables is expensive. Most people are surviving on the bare minimum. Pray for God’s provision. Pray the fuel crisis would be resolved soon so that people can get on with their daily lives. The country doesn’t have enough dollars to buy fuel to meet the need. Pray for the safety of people who have been outspoken about the current situation in the country. Pray that authorities will not be able to silence them. Pray for the leaders of this country, that they would be able to identify and implement solutions. Pray for wisdom and accountability as they get about this task.

Christians are involved in this struggle to survive. The Christian community was rocked in 2019 after terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. And now, many believers in persecution hotspot regions belong to low-income households, who have been worst affected by this economic crisis.

“The skyrocketing cost of living has left people scrambling to make ends meet. Having milk at home has become a luxury, having gas a rarity,” Sunil shares. “Yesterday (Sunday afternoon), we received a phone call from a volunteer, who shared about his family’s unusual lunch—boiled noodles and lentil curry. ‘We have to manage with whatever we have,’ he said when asked about this uncommon combination. Many people are doing exactly that: surviving with whatever they have.”

The work carried out by Open Doors field partners has also faced challenges because of the country’s situation. Some, before visiting persecuted pastors and believers in the field, have paused to ask themselves: “Do we have enough fuel to go and come back? Do we have time to wait in line for fuel before we go?”

Sunil says field partners have been taking rechargeable flashlights to every training program so that the lessons can continue during power outages. Pastors and believers who attend these training programs have had to pay special attention to their travel arrangements as not many buses are operating due to the diesel shortage.

“By God’s grace, the work carried out by field partners has continued, albeit with some limitations,” Sunil shares. “Throughout this crisis, the church has been upholding the country in prayer. Please join hands with us in prayer as we ask God for a change.”

Open Doors partners in Sri Lanka are assessing the ground situation and looking into more ways to help.

Pray for urgent requests—every day.

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