One year after the massive quake-triggered tsunami struck South Asia in December 2004, Christians and Buddhists in Sri Lanka have grown closer through Christian tsunami relief works, according to reports.
"It (the tsunami) has given us an opportunity to work closely with the Buddhist people and win their confidence," said the Rev. Lesley Weerasinghe, a Methodist pastor in the southern port city of Galle, where more than 4,000 people were killed by the giant waves.
Initially, local Buddhists organized demonstrations when Christians attempted to start building houses for Buddhist tsunami survivors, believing that Christians were planning to build a church in their village rather than homes.
"They thought we were going to build a church in their village, but when they realized that we were building houses for Buddhists, they started supporting us," Weerasinghe said, according to Presbynews – a news service of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
In Paraliya village, about 30 miles south of the capital of Colombo, church workers spoke with the chief Buddhist monk in the area when local Buddhists opposed the Baptist church’s effort to construct houses for tsunami victims. The monk went form house to house explaining the relief effort to the people and received their consent for construction.
"Before the tsunami, many Buddhists thought that Christians were trying to convert the Buddhists by our social service," Weerasinghe commented, "but our tsunami relief work has started removing that fear."
According to the Rev. Kingsley Perera, chair of Sri Lanka's National Christian
Council and president of the Baptist Council of Sri Lanka, the relief work has "certainly led to better harmony and understanding" with Buddhists, reported Ecumenical News International.
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Sri Lanka, accounting for almost 70 percent of the country’s 20 million people, while Christians make up just over 6 percent.