We have learnt a lot about religion since coming to Sri Lanka. Buddhism is the main religion of the Singhala people and so in Colombo most people are Buddhist, and there are minorities of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. In the north, amongst the Tamils, the most common religion would be Hindu.
Today we took part in the CC worship service – John preached from Mark 5 and Sophie sang a song called ‘Oceans’ (accompanied by Abi). Then Emily led the Senior Citizens activity and spoke to the crowd of elderly women. (There was some dancing too, which Abi seemed to find funny and record, but let’s not dwell on that.) Once again there was a queue of women at the end coming for us to lay hands on them and pray for them.
As I said yesterday there is much to be grateful in this spiritual hunger. And yet some of the women seemed to view prayer as a superstition – they were happy to add a Christian charm for good health alongside their Buddhist charms.
This chimes with what several people have told us about Sri Lankans – that most of them practice a kind of folk religion. What strikes me is that it is then easy for this to cross over into Christianity. We come to Jesus merely for what he can do for us; he is no more than magic lamp that we rub when we wish for something.
Of course it is not just Sri Lanka that has this problem. Before leaving the UK I chatted with Brian Nelson about his ministry. Brian tends to tell people that we all need saving from religion, including the religion of Christianity. We have seen that here in Colombo. Religion is any system that tries to manipulate God to get what we want.
Our time at CC has come to an end – but we are very grateful for their amazing ministry. What we saw was not religion, but the transforming power of the resurrected Jesus bringing hope to a down-trodden community.