Sri Lanka (MNN) — At least 100,000
civilians made a harrowing escape from Sri Lanka's war zone Wednesday. Tamil Tiger rebels had been using them as
A government bent on ending the 25-year civil
war has cornered the insurgents but is also trying to protect the
Paul Estabrooks, minister-at-large with
Open Doors, says, "The
challenge has been that the church of Sri Lanka is totally prepared to do
humanitarian aid for these people, but it has not had the opportunity because
it's a closed-off area by government forces."
The humanitarian situation is
dire. "Hopefully, ceasefires and ceasing of hostilities will enable
humanitarian groups, including Christians, to help everyone that's caught in the
middle of this inferno."
In a press release, the Canadian
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon is quoted as saying, "The government of Sri Lanka must
demonstrate the necessary degree of restraint in order to facilitate the free
movement of non-combatants to safety."
Although the Sri Lankan government
did declare a two-day humanitarian pause last week, very few civilians came out from the No-Fire
Zone (NFZ) during the two days. That led to a second call from Canada for a
resumption of the humanitarian pause.
Meanwhile, the Religious Liberty
Partnership, a coalition made up of evangelical agencies, launched a global
is being called "The Toronto Statement," the Religious Liberty Partnership
(RLP), with member organizations that include Open Doors
International (Holland), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (United
Kingdom), The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada), HMK (Switzerland) and the
Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Alliance (representing 128
countries), is calling the worldwide Christian community to pray for the crisis
in Sri Lanka.
Toronto Statement acknowledges some positive elements within Sri Lanka,
including the role that the church is playing, but expresses deep concern about
the ways in which humanitarian efforts are currently being handled.
addition, the Statement calls on the worldwide church to pray for work toward
the religious rights of all Sri Lankans and to support efforts to end
hostilities and seek an enduring peace.
is yet another example of the Christian family worldwide standing together and
calling its members to pray into a complex but very serious political
situation," stated Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK and
Chairman of the Religious Liberty Partnership. "The Toronto Statement is
in full accord with the RLP's reputation for taking a balanced approach in
these issues, and we trust that this call to prayer will be heeded by Christians
believe this Statement captures the heart of what the RLP is about, "said Floyd
Brobbel of The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada) and member of the RLP Leadership
Team. "Not only are we able to work together as individual organizations,
but with a united voice we speak to the issues that affect religious
liberty. We pray that this collective global voice will be able to give
clear direction to the government officials we petition and influence positive
change in the countries like Sri Lanka where religious liberty is threatened."
Estabrooks says, "They also call on the church worldwide
to pray not only for the situation of the people who are caught in the middle
of this conflict, but even the potential of anti-conversion laws."
Sri Lankan believers continue to
battle legislation outlawing the "inducing of voluntary conversions from
Buddhism." The bills in question
would punish, with jail terms, those caught 'spreading the faith."
In 2004, the leader of a party of
Buddhist monks proposed one such legislation as a private members bill and was
met with opposition from The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri
Lanka (NCEASL) and other Christian groups and denominations and civil rights
The Supreme Court then ruled the
bill to be valid except for two clauses which were deemed unconstitutional and
taken out of the legislation. In 2008 and early 2009, renewed efforts to
implement the revised anti-conversion bill began, heightening concern for
Christians in the country.
Pray for boldness for believers
and ministries working in Sri Lanka.
Also pray that the Gospel message will continue to grow and that many
will come to Christ.