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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sri Lanka: ‘This is our responsibility.’

‘I personally feel that this is our responsibility as people who are involved in development to support, at this crucial time, our local communities to make their lives less vulnerable by providing some food and other material assistance in this fragile situation.’

We received this entreaty last week from a colleague in Sri Lanka who is on the front line of what has become a truly atrocious humanitarian situation. Reflective of the dignified persistence that all our international staff have in common, this statement touches upon the severity of the crisis with gentle understatement.

‘Fragile’ it is. Over 100,000 people have been caught in the crossfire of savage fighting between Tamil Tigers and government forces. The former is likely on its last legs, shunted to a narrow strip of territory, while the latter refuses to halt their offensive for a moment, eager to finish off Sri Lanka’s rebel movement while they have the momentum. Meanwhile, refugee camps outside the conflict zone are receiving what has been described as a ‘human avalanche’ of traumatized, starving people.

HOPE International Development Agency is mounting up its response to the crisis. As always, men and women who we Canadian staff can trust and admire will manage the distribution of live-saving supplies to displaced families. Once again, the abstract ‘emergency’ that we grapple with only in our imaginations will for them be a very tangible, very difficult, sweaty, frightening, loud, confusing, and heart-breaking reality. Now, as with always, we must do all that we can to overcome our feeling of separateness from the suffering in order to answer our Sri Lankan colleague’s challenge with nothing less than love and affirmation.

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