UCA News

Sri Lanka

Bishop helps rebuild lives after Sri Lankan floods

Ratnapura Diocese in southwest has helped organize short and long-term assistance

Kingsley Karunaratne, Ratnapura

Kingsley Karunaratne, Ratnapura

Updated: November 07, 2017 05:13 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Bishop helps rebuild lives after Sri Lankan floods

Volunteers during a rescue operation in Ratnapura after flood waters inundated the area in May 2017. The local diocese has provided short and long-term support for the local community. (Photo courtesy Caritas Sethmini)



Share this article :
­In the seven months since floods devastated Sri Lanka, the local diocese has helped rebuild lives and futures in southwest Ratnapura, one of the worst-hit cities.

Ratnapura, known as the "city of Gems," suffered more than other regions after mining for precious stones, including rubies and sapphires, had left pits behind which exacerbated landslides caused by the flood waters.

Torrential downpours in May dumped 600 millimeters of floodwater in Ratnapura. Nationwide 213 died, with another 76 people missing, and more than 415,000 people in 12 provinces were left homeless, according to Red Cross figures.

In the immediate aftermath Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera of Ratnapura set-up three care centers, including one at a cathedral, to look after the flood and landslide victims.

Church volunteers cooked meals at the centers which were distributed to displacement camps and places in need. Sometimes transportation had to be arranged by the diocese due to difficulty in accessing flood-stricken areas.

"Under the operations of the bishop of Ratnapura we were able to render a helpful service not only to Catholics but also Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims," said Father Anton Sriyan, director of Caritas Sethmini in Ratnapura.

But since the immediate crisis passed, the church has continued to offer long-term care and support to affected communities, whether it be household items, clothes or money.

The schooling of tens of thousands of children was interrupted after the government ordered the closure of educational facilities for several weeks.

"We helped 3,500 families," said Bishop Perera.

"As the first step, victims were given food and dry rations. Under the second step, victims were given non-food materials. Later educational items such as school uniforms, shoes and cleaning equipment were distributed."

The 70-year-old bishop said dry rations costing 8,000 rupees, about US$53, were also handed out.

The church is also building 16 houses for 16 families which are due to be completed soon, and assisting in the clearing of water canals and damaged small tea holdings. Small financial assistance of 1,000 rupees a day is also being offered to some farmers.

Ratnapura Diocese covers an area of 4,948 square kilometers and has a Catholic population of 21,855 out of all 1.8 million residents.

Father Sriyan said since the May floods, there had been 36 minor and major land slides in the diocese resulting in more deaths and displacements.

The Caritas director said the bishop had offered support to all victims irrespective of their background.

"He does not care for the cast, race or religion of the people who come to him," said Father Sriyan.


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."