Two primary people groups comprise the nation of Sri Lanka: the Sinhalese and the Tamils, the latter occupying only 25% of the populace in the northern and eastern regions of the island. These two groups represent two conflicting cultures, with totally different languages and histories. As some of you will know from the international news circuit, the clash between these two groups erupted into a bloody civil war, which culminated in a crushing defeat of the Tamils in 2009. The wounds remain tender among the Tamils, as the unofficial war continues through the oppressive persecution and political subjugation of the Tamils, including such heinous crimes as rape and murder by the military. The Tamils still yearn for freedom from the Buddhist-run, Sinhalese-controlled seats of civil power.
The lead organization on the Tamil side of the conflict was the L.T.T.E. — Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (land), better known as the Tamil Tigers. All of the official literature describes them as terrorists, though Parthee considers them patriots, while also making clear that he rejects some of their tactics and philosophy. If you want to provoke Parthee into an animated frenzy, then probe him with questions about all of this. He was born and raised a Tamil, speaks and preaches in Tamil, and devotes most of his labors to the Tamil people, which he insists are the true Sri Lankans, in contrast to the Johnny-come-latelies who now exert dominion over them. He speaks some Sinhalese, however, and nurtures a sincere love for them, desiring the gospel to thrive among them.
But the pervasive military presence throughout the Tamil occupied territories stares them in the face on a daily basis. We passed through a military road block along a normal road on Tuesday, requiring me to vacate the vehicle, brandish my passport and sit at a desk where a soldier conducted an interview of me — basically playing a round of 20 questions. I’ll save those interesting details for another time. Since Parthee planned for us to see a couple sites related to the Tamil Tigers, I teasingly told him upon our return to the vehicle that I had explained to the soldiers that we were touring LTTE sites that promoted the overthrow of the Sinhalese government. Parthee blithely called my bluff, noting that if that was true, our dejected faces would be gazing out the back of a military truck on our way to some bleak new accommodations.
For Parthee, as for many thousands of Tamils, this conflict was brought close to home when his father was killed in a bomb explosion as a civilian. Parthee was fourteen at the time. Without a hint of bitterness, he quickly affirms that the death of his father served under God’s gracious Providence as the key event that ultimately led his family out of Hinduism and into the Christian faith. He rejoices that the Lord brought beauty out of ashes and joy where there was mourning.
I have consumed excessive space describing the political setting for two reasons. You cannot comprehend the needs without knowing something about these struggles, and secondly, Parthee wishes more people knew the true story behind the official story. Like many Christians throughout the world, Parthee’s loyalty to Christ removes an unqualified allegiance to any of the current political options available. The crave for Tamil independence must be accompanied by a commitment to Tamil dependence upon Christ.
And unlike the Tamil Tigers, Parthee has been tamed by the power of the gospel, enabling him to boldly assert that without a spiritual change no political change will suffice. The reign of King Jesus is paramount, and therefore, he intends to give his strength to proclaiming the only gospel which makes men free indeed. Pray that this roar will resound throughout the length and breadth of this land.
Pastor Rob McCurley
P.S. For your peace of mind, Parthee gave his stamp of approval to everything written above, knowing that this would be posted on the Internet. He insisted, typical of Parthee, that we should not fear telling the truth and that I could send even more details, if I wished. I will have to explain some of the pictures after I return home.