When I arrived in Sri Lanka just days ago, the national flag was flying everywhere. Everyone I spoke with was happy that the war has finally ended.
Incredibly, I noticed fewer road blocks and less military presence on the streets than before. It took a while for me to begin to believe that the past 30 years of war had really, really ended and people were celebrating this victory. The Sri Lankan government has been fighting for the past 30 years against the group known as “the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization”, the LTTE or Tamil Tigers.
During this time over one hundred thousand people have died and hundreds of thousands have been injured and displaced. As the guns have become silent, however, the victims of war continue to suffer.
The day after my arrival we drove to Vavniya, a town in northern Sri Lanka, to visit the refugees now called IDPs (internally displaced people). Since the end of the fighting more than three hundred thousand people have become IDPs.
In spite of my invitation and military connections, there were still a few logistical problems. You can not simply go there to help the people in need. Ven. Subhuthi, who made the arrangements for my visit, had already spoken with the Army commander in charge of the IDPs, so everyday we were allowed to enter the area with appropriate military escort.
When we arrived in the area known as Manik Farm where most of the IDPs were settled, there were so many temporary and makeshift buildings. Some areas looked like an endless sea of tents. It is hard to describe the instant feelings of pain, sadness and concern you feel for these innocent people.
Those who escaped the war arrived here with nothing but a few of their belongings. Obviously there are many problems providing food, clothing and the most basic human needs. Although it is sad to see so many displaced people I felt happy that to be there to help them in some small ways. The following are some of the relief projects we have conducted so far.