By Callie Long
Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka, 21 December (ENI)--One year after the
coast of Sri Lanka was bludgeoned by a devastating tsunami,
people are still struggling to come to grips with the events of
that fateful day. Added to their woes have been increasing
tensions between rebel groups and the government following a
spate of attacks on the army and police.
In the north and north-western parts of the island, and in
particular in the Wanni region controlled by Tamil rebels and
which includes the Kilinochchi district, people are also quick to
refer to the legacy of a war that lasted more than 20 years.
"People were already affected by the war, had lost their loved
ones, although not in a few minutes, then the tsunami," said the
Rev. G. Monoruban, the pastor of a small Anglican parish in
Kilinochchi. He recounts with horror the events of 26 December
2004 when some 3000 people were killed in the north of the
country alone, and at least 6000 people were injured.
Monoruban is himself a survivor of the two-decade long civil
conflict in which more than 60 000 people lost their lives in
fighting between government forces and rebels from the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam seeking autonomy for Tamil majority areas.
He missed death when he was hit by a large piece of shrapnel at
the age of 13.
In 2002, the signing of a cease-fire agreement brought a
precarious peace to the island but people are afraid for the
future, as a series of attacks in recent days on troops and
police has put the cease-fire under threat.
And 12 months after the massive waves smashed into the country's
shoreline, it is difficult to discern the damage resulting from
nature's destructive force, and that caused by human beings in
the form of warfare.
Nadarajah Jeyaganash, who lives in the Kilinochchi district and
is one of hundreds of fisherfolk to have been assisted after the
tsunami by the global Action by Churches Together (ACT)
International alliance, says, "It is important to be alive and to
Still, he noted it had been a "difficult year"; an
understatement, given that his family, including his parents and
siblings lost everything they had ever owned on the morning of 26
December 2004. But, said Jeyaganash, "If you don't have hope, you
don't have life."
Jeyaganash's father says he remembers the sound when the tsunami
struck of what he thought to be a plane flying overhead, a
reminder of the times of war when the noise of bomber aircraft
was a regular occurrence. He had no idea the sound was being
generated by the ocean that he had lived next to all his life.
The fisherman's daughter, Shanty, who nearly lost her life when
the tsunami washed her inland, before being saved by her brother
Jeyaganash, remembers the waves as "rolling, rolling, hitting
The Rev. S. D. P. Selvenal, who heads up a small Anglican parish
in Thanneerootu in Mullaittivu, remembers the effects of the
years of brutal conflict due to the civil war.
"Everyday we knew people would die, just not how or when," he
says. "Everyday we expected death. When a plane flew over, we
knew someone would die."
The hardship caused by the tsunami should not obscure the
continuing need of those who suffered in the war, Selvenal
"There were so many people affected by the war," he says, "now we
have people whose lives are affected by the tsunami. We cannot
afford to only help people affected by the tsunami."
Nearly a year after the tsunami changed much of Sri Lanka's
coastline for ever, and almost four years after the signing of
the cease-fire agreement, people remember how fragile their world
is. People are afraid of another war. And for those who survived
the tsunami - its ghost too still haunts them daily, especially
when storms blow in from the Indian ocean.
The Rev. Jeyasiri Peiris, general secretary of the National
Christian Council of Sri Lanka, says that hope lies in the "empty
cross" left by Jesus after the crucifixion. "It is about
resurrection," he explains. "After the tsunami, the 'empty cross'
is important in all this destruction we have experienced. We need
to rebuild our lives and communities - more than just the
tsunami, but also the war."
:: Callie Long is the communications officer for the global
alliance of churches and related agencies, Action by Churches
Together (ACT) International [759 words]
[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]