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Buddhist monks' dedication for tsunami relief work

Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana, Lanka Daily News, Feb 9, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- In her long history, stretching back to our 2600 years, Sri Lanka had never experienced a tragedy and a calamity as the one wreaked on her on the 26th December 2004, by the ravaging, destructive, swirling tsunami that ferociously struck and devastated the lengthy coastal belt extending from South to North-east.

The Mahawamsa, the greatest chronicle of Sri Lanka, records tidal waves sweeping in to land, somewhere around the 2nd century B.C. in the reign of King Kelanitissa. Most scholars considered this merely as a myth recorded in the chronicle. However, this became a too harsh, dreadful reality on this day.

These massive high-rising waves that mercilessly whipped almost 2/3 of Sri Lanka's coastal belt is called in the international parlour a tsunami a word of Japanese origin denoting ferociously forceful waves. Now "Sunami" has become a household word in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankans, normally used to a complacent life, were neither ready for such a calamity nor did they possess the know-how to handle an unexpected calamity of this magnitude.

Hence the sudden destruction caused is immense; the number of deaths has risen to over 40,000, the number of displaced is yet to be known exactly.

It was the Buddhist monks of Sri Lanka who spontaneously took the lead in coming to the rescue, and helping the victims of this tragedy. By that time the Government machinery was not at its best.

The Buddhist monks volunteered to turn their temples to welfare centers and house the helpless victims, providing them also with their basic needs of food, clothing, water, medicines etc. In fact some of these temples yet operate as welfare centers, tenderly and efficiently caring their fellow citizens put into this miserable plight for no fault of theirs.

At this time of the unprecedented tragedy the Buddhist monks have performed their part of the duty as true sons of the great compassionate Buddha, giving the victims material help and also providing them solace, moral and spiritual support.

These monks, quite rightly, put aside their religious responsibilities towards their patrons, and gave priority to this urgent need of looking after the tsunami victims. This response the Buddhist monks have shown to this urgent call for help is indeed admirable and laudable.

Temples all over the country contributed their might and joined hands with the monks of the temples directly helping these affected people. Monks from these temples in the unaffected areas collected all the necessary items to maintain these thousands of people in temples turned into welfare centers.

What is now urgently needed for Sri Lanka is a well structured rehabilitation programme to help these displaced people to recommence their normal way of life. As an additional constructive step in this direction the Buddhist monks, with the generous help of local and foreign philanthropists, have already started housing projects to offer houses to the houseless. The Mahasangha of Sri Lanka, individually and collectively will be continuing to work for the uplift of these tsunami affected innocent people.

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