The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) engaged in a numerous projects in 2018, reaching underprivileged Christian communities and other marginalised groups throughout the island nation. The NCEASL, with its vision of ‘Unifying the Church to Transform the Nation’, works through its three commissions in Missions and Evangelism, Religious Liberty and Human Rights as well as Relief and Development.
The Missions and Evangelism Commission focuses primarily on the equipping of pastors, church planters and church workers and assisting ministry workers serving through poverty. In this reporting period the NCEASL, through this commission, conducted numerous camps and trainings as well as strategic meetings with the church leadership.
The Religious Liberty and Human Rights Commission reaches out to Christians and pastors serving amidst persecution as well as other marginalised faith groups, lobbying for their right to practice their faith. Through this commission, the NCEASL conducts advocacy seminars for pastors and ministry workers, provides legal support for affected groups and financial assistance for ministry workers serving in impoverished regions.
The Relief and Development arm of the NCEASL, the Alliance Development Trust (ADT), works with marginalised communities irrespective of their race, caste or creed. Through its sectors of Relief Assistance, Development Education, Sustainable Livelihood, Child Participation and Development and Health, the poor and the vulnerable are rehabilitated, supported and empowered to transform their lives through long-term and sustainable assistance.
In 2018 alone, the NCEASL has provided financial support for several underprivileged pastoral workers, advocated for a number of minority groups facing harassment for their race and creed, equipped hundreds of ministry workers and reached out to thousands of vulnerable social groups with messages of awareness.
Livelihoods for Pastors
The Religious Liberty Commission supports pastors and ministry workers serving in rural and impoverished communities with practical assistance to begin livelihoods of their own. With the help of the livelihood grants provided, these pastors are now able to support the needs of their families as well as sustain their ministries. During the reporting period, the NCEASL provided 25 pastors with assistance to begin livelihoods. These recipients were identified from the Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Provinces of Sri Lanka.
The Religious Liberty Commission conducted six advocacy seminars in the Eastern, North Western, Western, Central and North Central Provinces reaching 240 pastors and ministry workers. The seminars addressed legal matters relating to land, school admission and on the legal aspects of establishing and conducting a church while also explaining how documentation of incidents against churches can help in lobbying for religious freedom.
The Religious Liberty Commission distributed 1,175 Tamil and Sinhala bibles among rural Christian communities in the Northern, North Central, Central, Eastern, Western and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. The recipients of the bibles were grateful for these gifts as they find it difficult to purchase bibles due to their financial constraints and because there are no bookstores in their locality from which they could purchase such bibles.
Assistance for Victims of Communal Riots
The sectarian violence targeting Muslims in the Central Province in February 2018, affected a number of Muslim communities especially those living in the Digana area. Mosques, homes and business establishments were damaged and burned by the mobs, causing loss of lives, severe injuries, trauma and great financial loss to the Muslim community. The Alliance Development Trust distributed 450 packs of dry rations among victims of the violence, in a bid to express its solidarity with those affected in their time of difficulty.
Documentation of Incidents
The Religious Liberty Commission continues to document incidents of violence, discrimination, intimidation, threats, legal challenges and other issues levelled against Christians. During the January to August 2018 period, a total of 53 such incidents have been reported.
Educational Support for Children
The NCEASL through the Religious Liberty Commission supports 255 school-going children who hail from impoverished homes and whose parents engage in ministry work. Children from all over the island receive support in the form of a monthly allowance towards their educational expenses.
Support is also provided for eight students pursuing their tertiary education at local universities.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the NCEASL conducted a Kids Camp from 28 to 30 August for 110 children of pastors and ministry workers who face persecution, poverty and other adverse circumstances. The 3 day camp which was held under the theme of ‘Light of the World’, included lessons based on Christian teachings and values, games, hand craft activities and a talent night.
In 2014, the Religious Liberty Commission established a forum to address interreligious youth on nation building and human rights issues and since then it conducts youth camps annually with the aim of providing instruction and guidance for the nation’s youth. A youth camp was organised by the commission from 10 to 12 August on the theme of Peace Building and Reconciliation. The topics discussed included transitional justice, social media, hate speech and religious freedom. The youth representing Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities shared their experiences of vicitimisation due to race. The youth also participated in an interactive session on using puppetry as an innovative medium to take social messages to societies.
Business Training for Ministry Workers
The NCEASL together with Sanctuary House – the NCEASL’s training centre – conducted a Training of Trainers programme for 17 business mentors from 19 to 21 June, 2018. The training included sessions, an exposure visit and business clinics which provided an opportunity for the participants to learn the principles of business management as well as employ the knowledge gained to revive two struggling business ventures. These mentors will now work through Church networks to train other entrepreneurs on how to successfully engage in business initiatives.
Water Purification Unit as a Livelihood Initiative
The Alliance Development Trust provided Pastor Gracien with a Reverse Osmosis Micro-Water Purification Plant as a livelihood initiative with the help of which he will provide clean drinking water for his community. Pastor Gracien lives in Palaviya (North Western Province) which is severely affected by various illnesses caused due to the lack of potable water. Communities living in Palaviya and neighbouring areas suffer from kidney diseases and dental fluorosis because of water contamination caused by farmers who use insecticide and weedicides.
Facilitating Indian Students in their Studies
For the third year, the Alliance Development Trust (ADT) together with Sanctuary House hosted students from St. Joseph’s College Bangalore, India who are studying for their Masters in Social Work. In 2018, three students visited Sri Lanka for a month-long stay during which they closely interacted with the beneficiaries of the ADT and engaged in projects organised by the ADT. The students who returned to India in May, learnt a practical application to the theoretical frameworks formulated within their classroom. The interaction with war-affected persons and social workers during their stay with the NCEASL’s regional office in the Northern Province proved to be an excellent learning opportunity.
Follow-Up Meetings with Livelihood Beneficiaries
The Business Development Unit of the NCEASL continued to independently generate funds for the various projects conducted by the unit and support other activities conducted by the NCEASL. A majority of the projects conducted by the unit equips marginalised and war-affected persons to be self-sufficient by helping them begin a livelihood of their own. On 22 May, the Business Development Unit organised a meeting with six of its beneficiaries and three directors of the Industrial Development Board in Jaffna to discuss the possibilities of developing the beneficiaries’ current business ventures.
Tumble Dryer for Children’s Home
The Religious Liberty Commission gifted a tumble dryer to the Paynter Home in Nuwara Eliya which is home to 33 children. This tumble dryer will be extremely useful in drying wet laundry which has been a great challenge to the management of the home due to the cold climate in Nuwara Eliya.
Child Protection Programmes
The Alliance Development Trust regularly conducts child protection programmes for the benefit of children living in urban slums and other impoverished communities. These programmes create awareness on child abuse, risk behaviours and on child rights among both children and adults in a bid to create a safer atmosphere for children. Since January 2018, six such programmes have been conducted in the Western and Southern Provinces, reaching 94 children and 23 adults.
Nutrition and Preschool Development Project
A nutrition project initiated by the Alliance Development Trust in June 2017 in the war-affected region of Kilinochchi, continued in 2018 too. Through this project, 80 students from three selected preschools are provided with a nutritional breakfast every weekday morning. As a result of this project, there has been an increase in the number of children attending preschool from these rural communities. The teachers also report an increase in the children’s growth as well as attentive and active participation in studies. The students’ parents are also involved in the preparation of these meals and this in turn is a great platform to inform parents on the nutritional requirements of growing children. In addition, the Alliance Development Trust also provided a cupboard to one of the selected preschools while all three preschools received sports items and cooking utensils for the preparation of the meals.
Sex Awareness for Youth
On 11 May 2018, 25 youth attended a seminar on what the Bible says about sex. The seminar which was organised by the Missions and Evangelism Commission of the NCEASL, was conducted by Sergiu and Rodica Filat from the Precept International Ministry. The sessions were simultaneously translated to Tamil for the benefit of the participants. A similar programme was conducted for 85 youth in Kandy on 28 July.
Child Sponsorship Programme
The Alliance Development Trust also continued to support 386 children through its sponsorship programme conducted in selected areas in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The programme conducts regular activities through the four children’s circles formed in these areas. These children’s circles were registered as children’s clubs under the Child Rights Governing System of Sri Lanka on 3 February, 2018. The children’s circles were also provided with sports items for their leisure time activities.
Promoting a Child Protection Policy
On 2 February 2018, the officers of the Alliance Development Trust met with the Zonal Director of Education, Vavuniya-South (Northern Province) to discuss the importance of implementing a child protection policy in schools in this region. Following the meeting, the Zonal Director expressed his support towards this initiative. Similarly, on 28 March 2018, the Alliance Development Trust conducted an envisioning programme towards promoting Child Protection among mothers and members of the Village Child Development Committee in Trincomalee (Eastern Province). The 11 participants were instructed on the importance of child protection and their contribution towards it. These participants were also equipped to share their training with others and thus advocate for child-friendly spaces in their communities.
Formation of Self-Help Groups
The Alliance Development Trust conducted Participatory Rural Appraisals in the form of well-being analyses and social mapping in a selected community in the Northern Province. Following these appraisals, five self-help groups were formed with 75 members who are trained and equipped on areas such as communication and leadership, conflict resolution, business promotion, goal setting and self-assessment, savings, loans and fund management and on using the Participatory Rural Appraisal as a tool of sustainability.
The Missions and Evangelism Commission formed a ‘Task Force’ of pastors who represent their fellowships from each of the 25 districts in Sri Lanka. The NCEASL meets with the Task Force in order to inform them of the challenges taking place in the country with regard to religious freedom and advise them on how to respond to such situations. On 8 June 2018, a group of 29 pastors selected as the NCEASL’s Task Force met at the NCEASL auditorium. The sessions at this meeting were conducted by the NCEASL’s facilitators who discussed the challenges faced by the Church of Sri Lanka including the issues arising due to false teachings. The Religious Liberty Commission also addressed the members of the Task Force on land-related issues, unethical conversions and on the importance of maintaining cordial relationships with communities in which they live. A booklet of the Right to Information was also distributed among the participants.
Support for Christian Volunteer Teachers
The Religious Liberty Commission of the NCEASL sponsors 45 teachers who teach Christianity on a volunteer basis in schools where there are no teachers for the subject. A monthly allowance is provided for these teachers serving in the Northern, North Central, Eastern, Central, Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces. The commission also conducted a residential training programme for 30 volunteer teachers from 1 to 3 September at the Sanctuary House training centre.
The Alliance Development Trust is committed to the prevention of the spread of leprosy in Sri Lanka. With the help of interfaith groups established islandwide, the ADT continues to conduct awareness programmes and skin clinics with the hope of reaching all citizens with awareness on the spread of this illness and advocating for the rights of those who are affected. Since reaching a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, the ADT works in close partnership with health officials and medical services personnel towards fighting the spread of leprosy as well as the stigma formed against the illness.
Meetings of Chairmen of Pastors’ Fellowships
The Missions and Evangelism Commission formed pastors’ fellowships from each of the 25 districts in Sri Lanka. These fellowships are headed by chairmen who meet with the NCEASL which discusses with them mission strategies while advising them on current issues faced by the national Church. The chairmen also have the opportunity to share with each other issues pertaining to their respective fellowships. In 2018, two chairmen’s meetings were conducted in January and September.
Meetings with the School of Church Planters
Each year, the NCEASL supports new church planters who minister to communities in remote rural areas. This year meetings were conducted in the North Central, Central and Eastern Provinces. On 23 August, a camp was held for the new church planters and their families.
The NCEASL together with the National Christian Council held a 21 day fast and prayer and an Independence Day prayer gathering. During the first quarter of 2018, the Missions and Evangelism Commission held a meeting for 40 leaders who were committed to this cause. In July, 55 pastors and Christian leaders from the Puttalam (North Western) Pastors’ Fellowship attended a seminar on how to take the Gospel to the Muslim community in the Puttalam District (North Western Province).
The Missions and Evangelism Commission published the Freedom in Christ Ministries Leaders’ Guide and a Participant’s Handbook during the first quarter of 2018. The Leaders’ Guide was translated in to Sinhala language and launched among pastors and members registered with the NCEASL in September. The Missions and Evangelism Commission also publishes educational magazines in Sinhala and Tamil for pastors and those in Christian leadership. A total of 1,000 copies of Pezhaipura (Tamil) and 1,250 copies of Namaskara (Sinhala) magazine were published in May 2018.
Hotel Management Training
The Alliance Development Trust has also initiated a vocational training programme for school leavers, unskilled women and disabled persons with the aim of training them in hotel management so as to supply a skilled workforce to the tourism sector in the eastern coast of Batticaloa. A total of 250 persons will receive sponsorship for hotel management training at reputed institutes in their localities. Thereafter, the ADT will help them with job placement so that they can secure gainful employment in the tourism industry. Currently, the ADT is sponsoring the training of more than 100 persons, out of which, 11 persons have finished they training and are receiving on-the-job training at hotels and other institutes.
Reporting Period: January to September 2018