Tuesday, July 19, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)-- Sri Lanka's government is allowing Christian native missionaries to save children who narrowly survived the recent Tsunami disaster, following news that some are being abducted into forced labor or child prostitution by people posing as aid workers, BosNewsLife established Monday, July 18.
US-based Christian Aid Mission (CAM), which supports local missionaries, said the authorities "slowly" begin allowing "approved organizations" to adopt the youngest survivors. "One indigenous ministry supported by Christian Aid has been able to take in seven boys and girls," CAM said in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center.
Initially the government of Sri Lanka did not allow minors "to be taken in by anyone other than a relative after reports surfaced of children being abducted into forced labor or child prostitution by people posing as aid workers," CAM explained.
It was not clear how many children have been kidnapped in recent months, but aid groups say the problem is common throughout Asia. However after what CAM described as "thoroughly evaluating organizations and individuals wanting to adopt children," the government is gradually letting them go into the hands of caretakers other than family members.
LIVING WITH RELATIVES
"Many boys and girls have been living with relatives who lost everything in the Tsunami and are scarcely able to provide for themselves, much less additional children," CAM said.
"One brother and sister recently taken in by native missionaries had been living with their mother in one of the country's many refugee camps. Their father was lost in the Tsunami; his body has not even been recovered," the organization explained.
"To feed her children, their mother worked in an exhausting, low-paying construction job. She saw her children's futures slipping away as she struggled to provide even their most basic needs. The brother and sister have now joined five other Tsunami victims in the Christian children's home," CAM said.
MORE TSUNAMY ORPHANS
Leaders of the home hope eventually to take in 100 Tsunami orphans, once they are able to expand their already crowded facility, missionaries added. In a letter to supporters, CAM urged supporters to "pray with them that this need would be met so that more children would be able to experience the healing of Christ's" love.
"Please do also pray much for the new children, as they have come with so much pain in their hearts, and despite adjusting to the situation, we don't know what is going on in their little minds," local missionaries added in a statement released by CAM.
The Tsunami that struck 12 Indian Ocean nations in December caused a total of 226,000 dead and missing, according to the United Nations. The death toll reportedly stood at 176,000 and 50,000 people were still missing, many of them children. Sri Lanka was apparently among those hardest hard hit by the giant water waves, with 70,000 buildings completely destroyed.
However Christian aid activities in Sri Lanka can be dangerous, human rights groups say, and CAM has been reluctant to give out exact details, following attacks against churches. The World Evangelical Alliance and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have also expressed "deep concern" about a proposed anti-conversion law in Sri Lanka, which is backed by politicians representing the Buddhist majority.
FINES AND PRISON
In an April statement to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights the Christian rights organizations said the legislation "unfairly targets the country's small Christian minority," BosNewsLife News Center monitored
The legislation reportedly advocates fines of around $5,000 and up to seven years in prison for anyone involved in illegal conversion. Both the convert and the person responsible for his or her conversion would suffer penalties if found guilty.
Buddhists comprise roughly 70 percent of Sri Lanka's nearly 20 million strong population, while Christians make up just about 8 percent, according to official estimates. Hindu's form 15 and Muslims 7 percent of the island's inhabitants, experts say. (With BosNewsLife Research, Stefan J. Bos and reports from Sri Lanka).