Two parties sign pact in Sri Lanka, but violence continues

By October 24, 2006

Sri Lanka (MNN) — On Monday, political arch rivals–the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the main opposition party United National Party–signed a landmark pact to cooperate on ‘key issues vital for the nation’s well being.’ The goal is a resolution to the civil war between Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger Rebels.

This agreement comes as the government and Tiger leaders prepare for peace talks in Switzerland on October 28.

It’s been anything but peaceful in Northern Sri Lanka, says Godfrey Yogarajah with the World Evangelical Alliance. “All communications have broken down in the northeast. There has also been a lot of violence and civilians have gotten caught in the crossfire. Many of them have died. There have been a lot of aerial bombings, suicide bombings by the Tigers.”

The violence is also causing another problem. “There has also been very little food going to the north of Sri Lanka because the land route is blocked,” says Yogarajah. “They need about 10,000 tons and only 5, 000 is reaching them.”

That food shortage mean increasing cost for food. Yagarajah says it costs 10 times more to purchase one kilo of rice in the North as it does in Colombo.

The WEA has also be the victim of the violence as one of their aid workers has been held hostage for more than a month, says Yogarajah. But, there have been other problems, too. “148 churches have been closed down and some of them burned. Christian workers were beaten up. The government is trying to bring in the anti-conversion law which would make a lot of our social programs illegal because they consider it a allurement to convert people.”

However, despite all the problems Christians are facing, Yogarajah is seeing some movement. “There is a sense of disillusionment among the Buddhist and the Hindus and many of them are looking for answers and it has opened a lot of opportunities for the church to minister.”

Yogarajah says the needs are great. “The church is actually also part of the displaced population because many of the churches in the Northeast are actually now in refugee camps. We have been getting numerous requests from the churches to help their members as well as the community.”

Funding is needed to do even more.

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