Braving gunfire, bombs, and artillery rounds, a fact-finding team from Sri Lanka's independent Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies in early August made its way into Muttur in the besieged northeast. The army of the Buddhist-dominated country and Tamil Tiger rebels, who seek autonomy for mainly Hindu Tamil-majority areas, were fighting intensely around the small coastal town.

On Sunday, August 6, the team arrived at the office of Action Against Hunger, a French charity, to find the corpses of 17 local Tamil aid workers. Someone had carefully arranged 15 bodies, each with a gunshot to the back of the head, face down on the front lawn. Two more workers who apparently attempted to flee were found shot dead in a car.

"The sight was too much to handle," one team member told Sri Lankan media.

Ceasefire Breaks Down

This year, the new fighting has taken more than 1,500 Sri Lankan lives and displaced 200,000 nationwide in the worst violence since 2002. Much of the fighting occurred in the northeast around Jaffna, Trincomalee, and nearby Muttur.

Near Trincomalee, Tigers cut off the water supply for 60,000 people. The army counterattacked aggressively, causing a mass exodus. A Methodist pastor in Muttur, Albert Suvarnaraj, joined villagers who were fleeing the violence by the tens of thousands. Speaking from a camp near Trincomalee, Suvarnaraj said he is still overwhelmed by the trauma of a 20-mile trek to safety. Persistent shelling, gunfire, and targeting of civilians caused a heavy loss of life.

Suvarnaraj told Christianity Today, "While we were taking rest in [St. Antony's Catholic] church compound, a shell fell on the courtyard. A child died in its mother's lap along with two others. I picked up the child soaked with blood. This memory ...

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