A Tragic Easter in Sri Lanka
By now you have seen the tragic news about Easter Sunday from Sri Lanka. 3 churches were bombed during Easter services as well as three prominent hotels, one safe house and another location where police were stationed. At least 258 people have died and more than 500 people have been wounded. Later I learned that two Islamic centers also saw attacks in the northern part of the island.
Our colleagues heard the bombs going off during their church services:
"We heard of the explosions during our Easter service. We were on lock down but proceeded the service and sent the believers home ASAP. We were unaware of the gravity of the situation… It is difficult to understand, but we are holding on to God. We are grieving with our people. We are safe. But we are absolutely devastated. Scared. And overwhelmed."
A Turning Point for Sri Lanka
They thanked us for praying and asked us to specifically pray that this act of terror could be a turning point in their nation:
"I am deeply grieved, we recovered from the Sinhala and Tamil [civil war] issue in 2009. Hit by a devastating Tsunami in 2004 that killed so many of our people, and today to witness this tragedy, BUT not without hope. We have been praying for a revival in the nation, thousands have joined, and many pray every morning, we are confident that we will see a breakthrough in this nation. I have been grappling with this question since last morning, Is this the beginning of Gods intervention in our nation. God is sovereign, this tragic event did not take place without his knowledge. We will trust him and plod on, until He is Glorified in our nation. Thank you for praying,"
As of this moment, they are still on a social media lockdown and experiencing temporary seasons of curfews. 24 perpetrators have been apprehended by the police, and it’s clear that a local Islamic terrorist group was behind the attacks. They were aided by a global network of terrorist organizations.
Helping Victimized Families
We know that needs will arise as they reach out to their fellow believers and community. So, we ask that you would give to help us help them. These needs in Sri Lanka are urgent, and we pray that you come alongside to help them as you pray and consider how to assist. The same network of churches that ministered after the 2004 tsunami plans to again help victimized families as they settle back to their new realities following the bombings. Many Christian families have been severely affected. We will share more information as it becomes available.
Addressing the Rise in Persecution Across the Region
Beyond these tangible needs though is a growing problem for the world we live in: persecution is on the rise! Ten of the 16 countries Asian Access works in faces situations just like this. Just this past week, we’ve seen reports from India and Vietnam alongside of this situation in Sri Lanka. In the first few months of the year, the same types of things have occurred in China as well.
Not long ago, the leader of one of these countries begged me to better empower leaders as they face these situations. This is someone who is deeply connected to the groups who work to help the Persecuted Church. He said,
“Joe, what is being done is not enough. Given the fruitfulness of Asian Access leadership approach, can we add this component to our overall leader development.”
So, Asian Access is presently pursuing to partner with as many of the Persecuted Church groups as we can to provide a more robust preparatory leader development effort so that they are better able to withstand the onslaught of pressure and persecution that is ever-growing. This will include spiritual, legal, and community organization training for a comprehensive effort to come alongside in the face of such atrocity.
The Need for Effective Leadership
Several years ago, after the 2011 tsunami hit Japan, one of our alumni Makito Matsuda was barraged with questions on how people could help. It was overwhelming for someone right in the thick of the disaster. As he considered the situation, he realized that tangible needs were needed but that wasn’t the most important thing. He said,
“What we really need is leadership!”
He knew that supplies and aid would come but the bigger challenge was having leaders prepared and ready to manage the crisis and lead the people toward safety, security, and shelter.
His wisdom sticks with me to this day. He shared about a 70-year-old man named Mr. Abe who took upon himself to mobilize those in his neighborhood to get to safety, arrange shelter, and plant a garden so that they could withstand the days it would be before aid would come.
In the face of persecution, we need hundreds of Mr. Abe’s who will ‘stand in the gap’ and rally the community with the light of Christ at the center!
Please pray and please give so that we can both provide tangible needs in the face of this Sri Lankan crisis as well as better equip leaders like Mr. Abe to rise to the occasion.
We have a matching challenge grant of $167,000 that can be applied to this situation. So, every gift you give to aid the Persecuted Church will be doubled.
God bless you and thank you for praying and giving!
Joe Handley, President
- Photo credits: cover photo courtesy Joshua Clayton; pray for Sri Lanka communion photo and "remembering Sri Lanka" photo courtesy Jeff Johnston/A2.
- Listen to the Mission Network News interview with Joe Handley
- One in three Christians face persecution in Asia, report finds
- Asia is 'new hotbed of Christian persecution'
- Ajith Fernando's post on the bombings: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-bombs-on-easter-sunday
- Stories on persecution
Double Your Gift Now to Help Sri Lanka & Empower Leaders of the Persecuted Church...
Note: Though the thrust of this fund is to empower the "Persecuted Church," a portion of giving will be used to meet various needs of Sri Lankan families victimized by the bombings.