South East Asia: Update on Jesuit response to Tsunami

As the second month after the tsunami draws to a close, Fr Prakash Louis SJ, consultant to the Jesuit Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Board (JTTRB) of Sri Lanka, reflects on the deeper, long-term implications of this tragedy. While commending the manner in which the Sri Lankan government and citizens rose to the occasion and got engaged in rescue operations, he notes that there are also many episodes of delay in rescue interventions, confusion and non-functioning, caused partly by what some observers labelled the politics of tsunami. The tidal wave that struck Sri Lanka on 26th December 2004 took away 38,000 lives, displaced 800,000 people and affected over 200,000 families. 

The Jesuits spontaneously rose to the occasion and responded with immediate relief supplies and are planning for long term interventions. But in confronting this tragic situation the Jesuit response needs to strive for singleness of purpose and be channelled as much as possible through local groups, associations and institutions, argues Dr. Louis. Perhaps most importantly, Jesuits have to realize that if they want to address the requirements of the really needy, the marginalised it is necessary to be engaged in a serious manner. This calls for a commitment which is long-standing and demanding, one that is concretely expressed by engaging or allotting more personnel, finance, time and energy to this work. This would entail, for example, sparing more Jesuits to carry this task to its logical conclusion, or setting up a specific NGO to carry out development works and social action. The report will soon be posted on SJS website. In the meanwhile it is available upon request from: