Pastors and Disasters

They spoke of losing family members during the long civil war. They shared their experiences of surviving the 2004 tsunami. They articulated their responses to the recent severe flooding. But most of all, they came with a commitment to build back better…

I spent last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with nearly 30 pastors and leaders of the Church of Ceylon at the launch of the new Disaster Risk Reduction and Management program. Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting this pilot training-of-trainers program, organized by the Diocese of Colombo and facilitated by the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA). 

Given the increased frequency and intensity of disasters affecting the island nation, the Church in Sri Lanka requested our partnership in developing a comprehensive and contextual program to address its growing need for enhanced capacity in disaster response and preparedness. Our aim is that the new program, which includes six modules of curricula interspersed with practical field work over 18 months, will help meet this need. Once it completes the pilot run in Sri Lanka, we hope to expand this initiative to our other global partners.

This group of participants – women and men, laity and clergy, Tamil and Sinhalese – represented key leaders from both dioceses of the Church of Ceylon and all parts of the country, bringing a combined total of several hundred years of firsthand experience in responding to emergencies. They know the situations in the communities they live in, and they know they can serve those around them by being better prepared. These participants will later facilitate disaster response training for others, expanding the ability of Church leadership to act more effectively in future emergency situations. 

It was a pleasure to witness their commitment and to assist Episcopal Relief & Development in providing the necessary resources for the Church of Ceylon to play a greater role in the wider community.


Nagulan Nesiah is a Program Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development.