Saturday, January 01, 2005

News from Sri Lanka

This is an email I received from a co-worker in Sri Lanka. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and other countries affected by the tsunami.

Dear All,

The reality of the magnitude of destruction caused by the killer waves that hit Sri Lanka and other nations in the Indian Ocean are now being brought to light and it is far worse than one could ever imagine.

I watched with horror as TV images showed a group of Sri Lankan soldiers (who had no other choice and so this is not about them but the sad task they had to perform) with gloves and masks across their faces, pull out bloated, naked bodies out of some muddy areas. Some others had to be wrenched out of places where they were stuck with long pieces of wood. The bodies were unceremoniously dragged and lined up on higher ground. Since it is now a few days since they died, the bodies are decomposing. Hence, they were then taken and buried in a mass grave. Hopefully they were properly fingerprinted and photographed in order that they could be identified.

Unfortunately, there are still some areas and some people are still out of reach and are not receiving anything. This was reported to me by a colleague who I sent with the Methodist Church to the Eastern province with a truck full of relief supplies. Unfortunately, the distribution is also hampered in some areas because the landmines in this formerly war ravaged area have now been dislodged making the entire place a different sort of death trap.

On a worse scale are isolated stories of looting of broken houses by local thugs. A couple of my daughter's colleagues were horrified when some local government officials diverted the truck of relief supplies to an area unaffected by the tsunami. (More such incidents were reported in the local media later). They were powerless. Then in some areas people not affected are joining those affected and collecting relief supplies (understand able to some degree as they too are poor).

Yet in the midst of the calamity and human evil, it was also heart-warming to see the efforts of so many Sri Lankans. People from all walks of life were sending essentials to those affected. People were lining up along the roadside with their parcels of food and handing them over to the many trucks that were on their way to the affected areas. One seven year old girl brought her entire little piggy-bank of USD 21 and gave it all for relief. "Please give this to some other child to get something she likes"she said as she handed it over. And an old lady, a pensioner in her eighties gave USD 2 saying, "Please buy something for someone to eat" Young and old alike are helping. The response is overwhelming.

Moreover, all of the help that is being given is not necessarily financial. Many are going and cleaning up Children's Homes, Homes for Elders, the homes of friends and even those of strangers. Others are riding with trucks to deliver food, packing food and so on. It is taking every form of help imaginable to meet the needs of those who have been affected.

But the psychological damage is not even being addressed. Many are traumatized and still walk around in a daze. we do not have people who are trained in helping these people. Often the friends they turn too are in equal need of emotional help. One young woman was miraculously saved when she was thrown out of the train (some of you may have seen the over turned carriages on TV) but right now is unable to speak from the shock. Some of my friends were trying to help her - I pray they will be successful.

Then there are the inevitable questions and many have called and asked for help in trying to understand this tragedy in particular and tragedy as a whole. Many Christians too are bewildered and some are even questioning their beliefs. Some like Job may trust in the goodness of a sovereign God who permits calamities while others may begin to doubt.

We are offering to our readers and some churches, the booklet, "Why Would a Good God Allow Suffering." We have it in Sinhalese (for some reason we decided to print this title in November ahead of schedule). We will do an urgent print in English and if possible translate and print it in Tamil as well. We are trying to do the same with another book, "When Tragedy Strikes". We hope that our Christian brothers and sisters may be enlightened by the reading of these books and be better informed so that they could to help explain some of the more difficult issues to those who are confused.

Last night, our neighborhood in Mount Lavinia was like a ghost town. The last night of a year is filled with the usual parties, dances, fireworks and celebrations. Yet, everyone was muted and not even wishing each other a Happy New will take some time for the shock of a disaster of this magnitude to wear off. A death toll of more than 40,000 as of now with some entire families being wiped out is definitely not easy to handle especially when everyone seems to know someone who has perished. And so ALL are affected in some way or another.

In HIS firm and loving GRIP

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