Monday, May 18, 2009

Questions that now face Sri Lanka

With the apparent end to the civil war in Sri Lanka now at hand, at least three main questions remain to be answered as we look ahead to the coming days:

1. Will the Tamil desire for greater representation and autonomy take on a new violent form in Sri Lanka or will the government of Sri Lanka genuinely pursue avenues to address the grievances of its Tamil population? Sadly, history does not give us much room for optimism for the latter.  Indeed, without international pressure put on the government of Sri Lanka, it is unlikely to take place. 

2. Will the Sri Lankan government now allow NGO’s and the international community to assist in providing aid and rehabilitation for the thousands of Tamils who have been displaced by the conflict? This will be a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources. Failing to do so will unquestionably create a fertile breeding ground for discontent and grievances that will erupt into further violence in the future.

3. With the “Tamil problem” apparently solved, will Buddhist nationalists now turn their attention towards Christians and other religious minorities whose very presence defies their expressed desire for a purely Buddhist and Sinhalese country. In January, Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thero, a Buddhist monk and Member of Parliament representing the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party stated that those who voted for them in the 2004 general election expected the JHU to fulfill two goals.  “One," he said, "was to end unethical conversions and the other was to liberate the country from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. That is why we entered politics.” 

Accordingly, I expect, we will soon see a resurgence of pressure on the government to pass anti-conversion legislation.

Uncertain days lay ahead for Sri Lanka. Your prayers for its people, leaders and church are much needed.

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