Population: 20.4 million (2012)
Capital: Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte
Official language: Sinhala, Tamil
Major religion: Buddhism
IFES movement: Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS)
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island which has been described as the pearl of the Indian Ocean! Over 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, followed by Hindus (12.5%) and Muslims (9.6%). Roman Catholics and Protestants account for 7.6% of the population.
Sri Lanka has seen two armed insurrections and one full-blown civil war in the last forty years. Sri Lanka’s political culture is fractured and her ethnic and religious communities remain traumatised and polarised by the war. These realities are reflected in the state universities.
Christianity is often viewed with suspicion because of its colonial roots and because of allegations of “unethical conversions” levelled against the church today. This suspicion is reflected in the attitude of many students to the Christian faith.
- 15 state universities; FOCUS groups in 8, pioneering in 1 of the 8; also pioneering in 1 private university
- 5 full-time staff
- graduate ministry run by volunteers
- largest group at the University of Jaffina
- smallest group at the University of Keleniya
FOCUS student groups around the country are now increasingly multi-ethnic. Engaging with those who are very different to them in a closer manner is often an eye-opening and life-changing experience. However, language is still a barrier to effective communication across ethnicities. Students are encouraged to be courageous and honest in their relationships – seeking both to understand and to seek forgiveness for the many misunderstandings and prejudices that each group has grown up with.
Younger students are also taking up leadership in the student fellowships. The FOCUS staff team concentrate on helping these young leaders develop a grander vision of the university and of mission within it. We pray that as they engage in mission their lives as well as the society around them will be transformed in line with God’s kingdom.
View from the inside
Yohan Abeynaike is General Secretary of FOCUS. He says, ‘The university is not just a place of study but a place of discovery. It is where we experience the truth that all dimensions of life are integrated in Christ and bring him glory (Colossians 1:17). It is the place where we see how Christ makes new redeemed communities – breaking down barriers that have divided us for generations and making us one (Ephesians 2:14-16). It is the place where we recognize the gospel of Jesus Christ and the reign of God as being truly ‘good news’ to all of life. That is why to engage in university mission in Sri Lanka is to engage in worship in a truly holistic sense.’
- for students to see that Jesus should impact every sphere of life: personal, economic, social and political;
- for students to care passionately about the things that God cares about;
- for FOCUS to strengthen its Sinhala language ministry in the coming years;
- for students and graduates to consider joining the movement as permanent, full-time staff.