Missio’s National Director, Fr Anthony Chantry, describes how Missio supporters enable our Church to be a force for good for people on the margins of society in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s breathtaking beauty and welcoming hospitality belie the trauma and suffering caused by decades of civil war. In addition, the tsunami of 2004 claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. More recently, devastating terrorist attacks in the country have shown that there is still so much healing work to be done.
“The evil we are capable of”
The long civil war between separatists and government forces claimed the lives of around 100,000 people and displaced around 300,000. It decimated neighbourhoods, with significant loss of life, infrastructure and livelihoods. Destitute widows and orphans were left struggling in poverty and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Addressing the crowds during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015, Pope Francis said:
There are families here today who suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka… Only when we come to understand, in the light of the cross, the evil we are capable of and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance.
I visited Galle, capital of the Southern Province which the tsunami left severely damaged because of its coastal location. The storm wiped out coastal communities, killed thousands of people, and left hundreds of children orphaned. It displaced more than 100,000 people and more than 20,000 families lost their livelihoods.
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Working tirelessly to heal
With Missio’s help, the Church has worked tirelessly on post-tsunami reconstruction. It is reaching out to thousands of widows, orphaned children and families who lost everything. During my visit, I saw first-hand the inspiring work of the National Shrine of Christ the Healer in Weligama.
82-year-old parish priest Fr Cyril Edirisinghe, who dedicated his life to working and living among poor people, built the Shrine 30 years ago. It remains a centre for people of all faiths seeking physical, spiritual and psychological healing.
The shrine is healing widows and orphans of their despair through skills training for income-generating projects. It offers counselling and support to families struggling with issues relating to inequality, addiction and infidelity. It provides psychological counselling to children with behavioural difficulties. Other children, forced by circumstance into work on the large plantations and denied education, receive schooling within the centre. Sick people come with their families to find strength and healing.
A beacon of love and hope
Pilgrims come in large numbers to experience the healing love of God in their lives. The Shrine welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds into the healing circle of Christ’s love. In doing so, it promotes healing and reconciliation between religions and ethnic groups.
The Catholic Church has been present in Sri Lanka for more than 500 years. And it continues to be a beacon of love and hope for thousands of people living in poverty and on the margins of society. I saw first-hand how Missio’s work enables missionaries in Sri Lanka to help disadvantaged communities break the cycle of poverty and violence. We’re helping promote reconciliation and social cohesion through education, healthcare and pastoral work.
Recognised by the Sri Lankan government as a National Shrine, Christ the Healer received an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis. His prayerful wish that it ‘may bring peace and reconciliation to the sons and daughters of the land of Lanka and restore their wounded hearts and minds to wholeness and health.’
Help us to continue our support of the Shrine of Christ the Healer, and projects like it around the world. Please give what you can today>>