Amid a crisis unparalleled in the history of Sri Lanka, millions of people are suffering the effects of the complete collapse of the nation’s economy.
With less than $30 million in reserves, Sri Lanka does not have enough money to buy what it needs from the outside world. Many essential items are not available, while skyrocketing inflation means that, once items are available they are unaffordable for most people.
There are shortages of food, fuel, cooking gas, and medicine, and the government has temporarily stopped fuel sales to try to conserve supplies.
Long-term debt issues have combined with COVID-19 and the effects of the 2019 Easter bombing on the nation’s tourism income, with the addition of rising prices due to the Ukraine crisis, plus crop failure.
UNICEF has reported that children are being hard hit because, with soaring food prices, 70 per cent of households are now reporting reduced food consumption. The fuel crisis and frequent power cuts are also hindering vital services for children, including healthcare and education.
People would line up for days, sadly 10 people have died while desperately waiting in the long queues..
The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid, together with Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia (ARDFA), is partnering with the Anglican Church of Ceylon and Agape Community Healthcare Home to help relieve suffering.
The partnership provides basic necessities and free medical services to vulnerable community members. In the longer term, it is also supporting sustainable projects that will equip low-income people to withstand the prolonged financial crisis.
"There are two-to-three kilometre long queues for everything," says Dr Avindra Jayawardene from Agape Home. “People would line up for days. Sadly, 10 people have died while desperately waiting in the long queues.
“The price of petrol has increased more than threefold in the space of three months. Cooking gas cannot be found anywhere. The price of food items have more than doubled over the last two months – for example, a loaf of bread, which could be purchased for around 45 rupees two months ago is now over 230 rupees.
“Many essential medicines including antibiotics and other necessary drugs are not available anywhere. Even paracetamol to control fever in children has been out of stock for over a month."
The appeal is aimed at helping low-income people to survive the crisis. This includes many ministry families impacted by depleted church giving.
“It is a deep grief to me that the country of my heritage, Sri Lanka, should be facing the kind of crisis that is unfolding,” said the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, in commending the appeal.
“To know that millions of people are going without basic necessities arouses Christian compassion within us and I am glad that our Anglican agencies are able to respond so quickly to this emergency. Galatians 6 says we should do good to all people as we have opportunity, especially to the household of faith. Here is an opportunity where even a small amount, given prayerfully, can do much good.”
Pray for Sri Lanka
A special prayer night for the Sri Lankan crisis is being held on Thursday, June 30 at Auburn Anglican Church.
“The people of day-to-day life are the ones that are suffering,” said one Sri Lankan congregation member. “Fishermen can’t sell fish and can’t earn money. There is no transport for children to get to school. Milk powder and rice and the basic things are so high in cost that it is impossible to get what is needed. People are hurting, especially the common people.”
There is anger, wailing, crying, protesting...
The prayer night will also hear a letter from a Sri Lankan pastor, which outlines the depth of the crisis.
Part of the letter says: “People of our island have been suffering very much by all sides. People are protesting against this present government… people are dying in the same spot where they are waiting to get essential things like food, fuel, and medicine. Some people have already killed themselves because they have been unable to provide meals for their families. Even in this letter, we can’t express adequately the hardship of the Sri Lankan people.”
The Rev Ben George, the assistant minister of Auburn & Newington Anglican Churches, will lead the prayer night and says, “The situation in Sri Lanka is dire. Lives are being lost as a result of the situation. There is anger, wailing, crying, protesting. The country is rife with corruption in the places where leadership should be making decisions for the good of the nation.
“When there is a situation like this, where all hope seems to be lost, where can we turn? We can turn to our great, powerful, merciful and gracious God who is our ‘refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (Ps 46:1).
“We want to come to our God, on our knees, and ask that the God who is even in control of tumultuous waters would bring peace and reform to a people who are hurting. We want to come to our God, asking that the gospel of Christ would spread like wildfire across Sri Lanka, and that many would be soothed by the assurance, safety and peace of being in a relationship with God.”
Photo: (Unicef) Malnutrition sufferer Mathivanan and his sister Krishanthi in the village of Shanthapuram, northern Sri Lanka.