Executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka
“If we truly in our hearts love God and want to follow him and pray that he will use us for His great purposes, he will guide us and use us to live the full life for which he created us, using our full potential. There is only one you in this world, and you have been placed in this country by God at a time like this for a purpose, to be his witness, to be a shining light in dark places.”
From a young age, Nadishani Perera asked God to transform her heart and mind to be like him so that “I will hurt when those around me in this nation are hurting, so I cannot be content or have peace by ignoring the needs of the society, that I will be moved to serve by the love I have for others.”
Out of this prayer came a decision to pursue law. When Sri Lanka’s nearly 30-year civil war came to an end in the 2000s, she began to work with victims of police torture and child abuse. It was a major departure from a typical legal route, but Perera describes it as following what she believed was her “calling and passion” in serving the “vulnerable, suppressed, affected, and needy children and people in my country and working towards bringing God’s kingdom values in the nation.”
Perera’s experiences shaped her work with state agencies like the National Child Protection Authority and the Sri Lanka police. By 2020, she had been recruited for the executive director position at Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), a global anticorruption movement founded by former employees of the World Bank.
The past two years have been intense: The pandemic debilitated a country exploited by “corrupt power holders” who had manipulated the laws, policies, and systems in the country for their selfish agendas.
TISL’s programs and efforts have taken on new urgency in the present crisis. It is currently engaging politicians, public officials, civil servants, journalists, and private, “diverse citizens” to “bring about the required cultural and systemic changes to resist and combat corruption in the nation.”
Then there are aspects that require Perera’s legal expertise: advocating for and facilitating the drafting of necessary laws and systems to fight corruption and enhance transparency. She and her team regularly issue press releases and conduct press conferences over mainstream media to call out the government when it acts without transparency, is suspected to be involved in corruption scandals, or “takes steps that obstruct accountability measures in governance.”
“This calling to a life lived for others, a life where you make your personal decisions considering what you can do about what is going on in the society and in the country, is one that is very challenging and against the tide of the popular narrative we see in society, where pursuance of one’s happiness is seen as the logical and modern theory of life,“ said Perera. “I honestly do not think Christians have another choice here, as the Word of the Lord is very clear.”
On the ground, there are initiatives to raise civilian awareness and build their knowledge of anticorruption, as well as efforts to “mobilize diverse stakeholders to build coalitions against corruption and to become change makers in their sphere of influence.” TISL also assists victims of corruption to access state services and pursue justice, helping to create tools and mechanisms that can be used within state institutions to mitigate corruption.
“I am humbled and deeply joyful for the opportunity to be a servant of God in this country, at this time,” Perera said. “At this critical juncture of my country, where the people are suffering due to their inability to fulfill their basic needs, where around 70 percent of the population have begun skipping one meal, where my bankrupt country is begging for assistance from the nations across the world.”
To her, this is the time for followers of Christ to love God and love our neighbors.
“If we make this choice and we know that God is on our side, the results are in his hands. While we do what we can do with all our heart and might, then we will have hope and joy that will carry us through the challenges.”