As one of the few Sri Lankan institutions to freely cross ethnic boundaries, the church commands some respect in the search for peace. "Though such a small group, we have had a voice," Ivor Poobalan, principal of Sri Lanka's Colombo Theological College, told me. Church leaders (mainly from the older, traditional churches) help facilitate the peace process from behind the scenes.
"We once thought everything depended on us," Anglican bishop Duleep de Chickera says. "We have now shifted to a more gospel stance, being the leaven, the salt, moving into people. It's not as though the church is making peace by itself. We have to work with others."
One such activist is Harim Peiris, an evangelical who serves as the country's president's chief spokesman. Methodist preacher Ajith Fernando's book on Daniel, Spiritual Living in a Secular World, influenced Peiris to consider public affairs as an area of Christian service. When President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga asked Peiris to join her in government, he submitted the decision to his church, knowing his role could be divisive.
He points out that if Sri Lankan Christians want to serve in the political realm, they must be willing to serve with those of other faiths. "Out of over 200 electoral constituencies, maybe two in the whole country would return a non-Roman-Catholic Christian to office," he says. "[The mostly Hindu] Tamils elect Tamils, and [the Buddhist] Sinhalese elect Sinhalese. We'll probably never have a Christian president of Sri Lanka. But Daniel and Joseph didn't necessarily serve a godly leader."
Peiris feels the loneliness of his position. "You don't see enough Christians involved in social issues," he told me. "Not that they don't want to be, but the church has ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more