May 19, 2009

Baptists Visit Displaced Camp in Sri Lanka

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
May 19, 2009

Baptist leaders of Sri Lankan Baptist Sangamaya (SLBS) visited a refugee camp in the South Asian country in the wake of the war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers.

The visit to temporary shelters in Vavuniya, a town in Northern Province , occurred on May 11 and 12, and included the distribution of supplies to approximately 500 families by the SLBS. These supplies, which included water, milk and footwear, were purchased with a grant of US$5,000 from Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.

E.K.Yasaratne, General Secretary of SLBS, who joined other religious leaders on the tour of the camp, informed the BWA that the relief coordinator for the refugee camp requested additional supplies such as gripe water, soap, towels, disinfectors, milk bottles and mosquito nets that are “useful for baby care, as many children were handicapped.” An attempt is being made “to find a mechanism to supply the above items requested by the coordinating officer” as soon as possible to be sent to the camp, he said, and appeals are being made to “churches and well-wishers” for further assistance.

An estimated 250,000 refugees, mainly Tamil, are in camps in Northern Province following the escalation of the civil war in the country between the LTTE and the government over the past few months. The civil war first erupted in 1983 as the Tamils, who accuse the Sinhalese government of discrimination, fought for an independent state in the north and east of the island. Since the beginning of the conflict, approximately 70,000 persons have been killed. An estimated 7,000 civilians have been killed and approximately 17,000 have been wounded since January 2009.