Ecumenical pilgrimage to Sri Lanka: walk the talk!

by Einar Tjelle last modified 29 August 2019 08:42 PM
Ecumenical pilgrimage to Sri Lanka: walk the talk!

Photo: Einar Tjelle

29 August 2019

It was meaningful indeed to visit St Sebastian Church outside Colombo, and meet with survivors after the awful Easter bombings, Oslo bishop Kari Veiteberg from Church of Norway said.

“The fear we experienced among minorities in Sri Lanka, we also partly see in Norway. Just a few days before our visit, a rightwing extremist started to shoot in a mosque in my own diocese, but was stopped in due time. But the harsh trend of polarization, collective prejudices and fear is the same. We need a joint pilgrimage of justice and peace. We need to stay safe and together in prayer and ordinary life. We must walk the talk,” she said.

A pastoral visit from Norway to churches and institutions in Sri Lanka took place 12-18 August. Local hosts were the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and Caritas Sri Lanka. The visit was co-headed by the Catholic Bishop of Oslo Bernt Eidsvig and his Lutheran colleague in Oslo Rt Rev. Kari Veiteberg. Also, a multi-faith group from the Srilankian diaspora in Oslo joined the delegation of ten. The program of the visit exposed the delegation to the situation for churches and different groups in the society, from Jaffna to Colombo.  And to the challenges which the Easter bombings represent for inter-religious amity in Sri Lanka. The delegation was also exposed to the longings among the peoples of all faiths for truth, justice and reconciliation after the end of the civil war.

For almost a week, the delegation visited churches, temples and mosques. There were meetings with religious and political leaders, and not least grassroots projects on interfaith cohesion and amity in local communities.

“In spite of tensions, we have also seen signs of hope, particularly how the churches are responding to these challenges and give witness to their love of Christ and their neighbours,” said Einar Tjelle, head of Ecumenism and Dialogue in the Church of Norway, also part of the delegation. “A pilgrimage where we are traveling together, from different churches and faith traditions is in itself a peace journey.”

Tjelle continued: “We have met with people trying to reconcile and build bridges after 30 years with civil war. Now we are facing a growing nationalism, and several politicians misusing religion for their own purpose. In this context it seems so important with bridge-building and an interfaith approach on a leadership level, and not least, a grassroots level.”

Bishop Veiteberg stated: "We have come to be a sign of solidarity, among sisters and brothers, and I felt our visit was very much appreciated. But we also came to learn. And certainly I have learnt a lot, been shaken but also encouraged. With a clear voice I have to say:  face the reality -  address the hate speech! Walk the talk!”


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

More information.