The armed ethnic conflict that devastated much of Sri Lankan society for 25 years may be over, but its deep social and emotional scars are still carried by its citizens, both in Sri Lanka and in those who now live elsewhere.
Chris Pullenayegem is a member of Friendship Community Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ontario, who was born in Sri Lanka. He understands the pain and hatred that remained and would continue to be gangrene to the soul of Sri Lankans. He also knew that this had followed Sri Lankans who immigrated to Canada.
In 2008 a small group of Christian Sri Lankan expatriates gathered to discern a proper response to the evident animosity and unwillingness to forgive found in the Christians of the Sri Lankan diaspora in Canada. Many attempts were made among the divided ethnic groups to engage in dialogue and fellowship.
Pullenayegemdesigned a 12-module course, Journey to Forgiveness,” that was tested in Canada and that has resulted in testimonies of healing, release, restoration, and blessings. The course has been translated into Sinhala and Tamil and is ready to be used by the local churches in Sri Lanka.
“I had to work through my own challenges of forgiveness before the Holy Spirit could write this course through me. Looking back, in many ways it seems that God took me through a lifetime of preparation for this single task. The testimonies of change we have heard are sufficient confirmation that it is the Lord’s work and that he has orchestrated the entire initiative,” Pullenayegem explained. “Unforgiveness is a blessing- and grace-blocker. It can completely paralyze a believer’s effectiveness and fragment the church.”
Pullenayegem has been working with local partners in Sri Lanka to train small group facilitators in preparation for the roll-out of the program in January 2014 to churches in the entire island in the three language groups and covering every Christian denomination. “We are working with our local partners, church networks, and others such as Back to the Bible and World Vision Sri Lanka,” he explained.
As the vision unfolds, Pullenayegem said that other frontiers are already being sought in the Middle East, including Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and South Sudan in Africa.
“We believe that through this tool, God will call the church, one person at a time to model the kingdom that Jesus preached, experience the power and freedom of forgiving, and show the world that which makes us different,” he said. “The power of forgiveness is the best-kept secret of the church. This tool can be used by God to bring healing and reconciliation within the church, which then gives it the credibility to work for reconciliation outside the church.”