Written by Jimi Izrael
The Sri Lanka Task Force of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference is working behind the scenes both in this country and abroad to help the peace process along in Sri Lanka. For 20 years, a civil war has been raging there between the majority Sinhalese Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam.
The Rev. Paul "Chip" Jahn of St. Peter's UCC in Lamar, Ind., was instrumental in getting U.S. Senate Resolution #300 passed this summer.
"It's amazing what God can do with a small, dedicated group of Christians," says Jahn.
The Indiana-Kentucky Conference formed a partnership with the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India in 1992. While the Conference itself has been dedicated to helping the peace process, St. Peter's funded all the advocacy work for the first five years of the partnership.
The partnership's priorities were clear from the beginning. The first was to unite in their ministry to children of the war, as children are always the most vulnerable victims of any war. Others included a plan to develop a ministry of advocacy on behalf of the children, all this to help cause of peace.
Other organizations joined the effort to help negotiate a resolution to the civil war. This group evolved into the U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Forum on Sri Lanka. After hosting meetings with U.N. delegates, World Bank representatives, and officers in the U.S. State Department, members of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference went to Sri Lanka.
"With the help of the Jaffna Diocese," Jahn says, "members of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference coordinated trips to Sri Lanka to gather information often from the conflict area that was inaccessible to other organizations."
Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.)—who heads the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and the Center on Congress at Indiana University—and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) wrote a Senate resolution in an effort to focus positive attention from Washington on the struggling peace process in Sri Lanka.
"Sen. Lugar shepherded the resolution through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to a vote on the floor of the Senate in time for a visit to the United States by Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, Ranil Wichremesinghe, this past August," says Jahn. Lugar submitted the bill on July 9 and it passed on Aug. 1.
"The UCC has a long history of advocacy for peace in Sri Lanka," says the Rev. Ron Stief, team leader for the UCC's Public Life and Social Policy Ministry in Washington, D.C. "We applaud Sen. Lugar for offering a constructive role for the United States in reaching for a lasting peace in this war-torn nation."