Missionaries Caught Up in Sri Lanka Conflict

A mission and church planting group targeting unreached regions in Asia reported that eight of its missionaries and dozens of their church families have been displaced in the last two weeks.

Gospel for Asia Sri Lanka leader Lal Vanderwall reports that heavy fighting between the government and the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) intensified recently, forcing the GFA pastors and at least 83 families to flee their homes.

Yet despite the instability and tense situation, Vanderwall says the Christians in his group persist in sharing the Gospel, viewing the current situation as an opportunity to share their hope in Christ with their fellow refugees, according to a GFA report released Monday.

"While they face the same dangers and discomforts as the others, they are trusting the Lord to work through the nightmarish situation," observed GFA.

The South Asian country of Sri Lanka has struggled with a two-decade civil war that officially ended in 2002. Yet violent conflicts continue between the separatist group LTTE and the elected government. LTTE says it is fighting to create a separate state for the country's 3.1 million ethic minority Tamils, which it says is being discriminated against in Sri Lanka.

According to the United Nations, some 70,000 people have been killed and 465,000 displaced by the conflict, including 205,000 uprooted since fighting intensified in April 2006.

Moreover, within the last two weeks, 136,000 people have fled their homes to seek safety in refugee camps, according to GFA.

Christian humanitarian groups have also resisted from fleeing the troubled island nation and instead have remained to work among the country's displaced war victims. Groups such as World Vision, Action by Churches Together (ACT), and Catholic Relief Services are helping to distribute water, food, mats and other needed items to families in displacement camps.

Aid workers and missionaries daily confront the realities of war such as bomb parcels placed in civilian-inhabited areas and the risk of being kidnapped and ransomed for money.

Carl Moeller, president of the persecution watch group Open Doors USA, recently noted to Mission Network News, "What I think is important for people to realize is that, in the midst of trouble and persecution, often the hope that people turn to and cling to in Jesus Christ is the only hope that they can find for a desperate situation," referring to the conflict in Sri Lanka.