Tens of thousands of people in Sri Lanka live with an ongoing disability, many as a result of the protracted civil conflict, during which 100,000 civilians died. In a culture where misfortune is often associated with personal sin and punishment by the gods, people with disability are far more likely to be isolated from their communities and struggle with poverty.
Among its many ministries, Rev Gnanarajah is helping the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka take action.
“Nineteen years ago the church gave me the freedom, on their behalf, to begin an experimental ministry with people who were deaf,” Gnanarajah explains. “We became known as Deaflink, and the church has since supported me full time and helped me to complete my studies in inclusion and disability of all kinds.”
Originally concentrating on the north around Jaffna and other areas decimated by Sri Lanka’s long and brutal civil war, the work of the church has expanded to include other places held back by poverty on the east coast.
I believe that through our ministry the grace of God is made known,” he says. “Jesus was asked of the blind man – who sinned, the boy or his parents? His answer shows that disability isn’t about sin or blame. Instead, it gives us the chance to show God’s love. We belong to each other – Paul in Corinthians has always inspired me to see all people as members of the one body, with something vital to contribute.”
The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka is a true testament to unity, with about 45% Tamil and 55% Sinhalese members. It concentrates on training new ministers and planting vibrant Christian communities throughout the country, and is responsible for schools, preschools, hospitals and health clinics. The disability work funded partly by UnitingWorld supporters is a central part of the mission of the church.
“You are our brothers and sisters,” Rev Gnana says. “I always tell people of the funding you provide – this money comes not from wealthy people overseas, but from ordinary Christian families like ours. It is wonderful to us that you are keen to support and love people with disability from so far away.”
Health & Education
The church oversees 37 preschools, 15 day-care centres, 22 children’s homes and 25 nutrition feeding centres. It also has six homes for the elderly, a ministry for the deaf, a hospital and a few clinics, several vocational training projects, two farms and three refugee camps. The Wesley Press, the first printing press in Sri Lanka, is involved in publishing and runs a bookshop.
UnitingWorld supports the church in inclusive education, vocational training and empl
oyment opportunities for people with disabilities, as well as raising awareness for inclusion and empowerment.
1. Peace and Reconciliation
Pray for the people of Sri Lanka as they continue to recover from conflict that saw 100,000 civilians and 50,000 fighters killed, with many left wounded, disabled or displaced from their homes. Post-war policies have not always supported harmony between the ethnic groups. More recently, radical Islamists caused havoc with the Easter Sunday bombing, though the majority Muslim community remains peace-loving.
Pray for President Rev Ebenezer Joseph and his team, leading in a time when a generation of leaders and educated people have fled the country. Tourism that was helping to revitalise the economy has died and COVID-19 has left hundreds of thousands without an income.
3. Disibility Inclusion
Pray for Deaflink, Rev Gnanarajah and those living with disability. There are about 1.62 million people with disabilities and they continue to be among the most poor in their communities
We can all do simple things to stand with our Partners and show support:
- Think about your home and your church property – how welcome do you think people with disability feel in your community? Are there access ramps or strategies to help vision and hearing impaired people? Can you suggest changes that could be made?