Chief Overseer of the Apostolic Diocese of Ceylon (ADC), Rev Dr Kirby de Lanerolle is a man of God who believes in a solution based ministry. It is this vision of his that has prompted him to form a relationship with Ven Kolonnawa Narada Thera of Sangaraja Temple. Their goal is simple – Assist the under privileged children of Maradana to aspire for a better life. Poverty is the chief cause of the suffering which we see in society. Daily News visited Rev Kirby de Lanerolle and Ven Narada Thera and learnt about their mission and their plans to help these children.
Rev de Lanerolle’s objectives are clear cut. It is purely harmonious. He feels that it is the time that Sri Lankan society looks at and understands how the church can play its role in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society and be a solution. Jesus in his ministry clearly instructed his followers how a church is supposed to be planted. Jesus says in Matthew 10: 14 – “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” If they welcome you may stay, but if they do not welcome you then you must leave.
“The first understanding is that Jesus’ role when he came into the world was not a conversion based ministry. It was a solution based ministry. A Christian should be a solution to that area – a village, city or nation. For me as the leader of the ADC having 500 free churches, my heart is to teach our Christian pastors to live within the privileges of a minority; honouring all religions by serving them without conditions or discrimination.” said Rev de Lanerolle.
Rev de Lanerolle feels that as Christians we need to examine our hearts and live in harmony with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Since Jesus came as a king who serves, now most importantly we should do the same. Rev de Kirby’s Church WOW was based in Maradana for three years having been introduced to the area and community through his Buddhist classmate Raj Rasiah and during which time they built lasting friendships and impacted many lives in the area. At the onset of WOW moving to Maradana, Rev Kirby de Lanerolle’s first duty was to meet the other religious leaders (one was Ven Narada Thera) and say – ‘how can I be of service to you?.
“I want to be a solution and a blessing to the region. If you see and identify that I am a solution to your problems, that my church is a solution to your problems then we will work together. Throughout the years we have grown and we have had a phenomenal relationship. We have grown like brothers and friends and today we are serving a people group from Maradana in whatever way we can” explained Rev de Lanerolle.
Fed and educated
Because of this relationship, hundreds of children in Maradana get fed and receive tuition every single day. There was a time when the church and the temple were feeding over hundred people every single day. They want to be a model to other communities. Rev Kirby and Ven Narada Thera have been doing this close to eight years now. Hundreds are getting fed and educated. Scholarships are being given for education – children learn to dance and they learn drama/ theatre. The older kids are placed in jobs. These services were initiated under what is called the ‘Warehouse Project’. There have never been misunderstandings between the church and the temple. “We love each other and we love the people together. I really believe our free churches can be a solution to this country. They just need the right model,” says Rev de Lanerolle.
Rev de Lanerolle stressed that the right model should be servant-hood and love. Those should be its core values. People followed Jesus because they saw love. They loved him because people are naturally attracted to love. Jesus wanted to reveal His Father to the world so that they may know Him as the Father; to reconcile people with the Father. You can easily tell people about Jesus, about the forgiveness and the love he has for people, and the reconciliation he provides through the cross with the Father, and preach the gospel without people being converted from one religion to the other. St Paul himself was a Jew who wrote many books of the New Testament. He wasn’t trying to convert people to a religion but introduce them to a living Savior. Jesus is a relationship. He is not a religion. Why can’t we introduce Jesus to people without wanting them to convert? God’s forgiveness of sins is something any believing man can receive without religious debate and conditions.
The greatest thing is to be a servant and that is essentially what we are trying to do in Maradana. We are serving people,” added Rev de Lanerolle.
Ven. Narada Thera is a humble Buddhist priest. Both monk and priest honour each others’ values and their faiths. Both Rev de Lanerolle and Ven Narada Thera saw the movie of the Buddha together. Rev de Lanerolle respects the Buddhist teachings & values. Likewise, Rev de Lanerolle enlightened Ven Narada Thera on many aspects of his faith and in return Ven Narada Thera enlightened Rev de Lanerolle on many aspects of Buddhism.
“I understood that Rev de Lanerolle had immense respect for the teachings of the Buddha. He attended some of our Buddhist festivals. Because of this, he grew in my esteem. In return, I grew to respect his faith and his teachings. So we discussed many matters and our friendship deepened. We became brothers. As a Buddhist monk, it is my duty and desire to spread the teachings of the Buddha. I also understood that he too wished to spread the teachings of his faith. Our common goal was service to the people. We wanted to help the people. That is where our teachings found common ground,” said Ven. Kolonnawa Narada Thera.
In their years of friendship, there have never been any problems. There has been no conflict.
There has been no dispute. It has been very peaceful and very harmonious. Both parties have one common goal that they strive towards. And that is to do good to society. Along with the ‘Warehouse project’, they have also established the ‘Sri Narada Foundation’ of which Rev de Lanerolle is secretary. Ven. Narada Thera is the Director of Social Welfare work of the Warehouse project. Both have joined hands together. Under the Warehouse project, Rev de Lanerolle is providing a great service to Maradana. The children who are assisted through these endeavours come from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. Ven Narada Thera was quick to point out that even the Lord Buddha too was an example of inter-religious harmony. That was part of his character.
Together they have been a conduit of love to all religions and races in Maradana. In a time where united Sri Lanka is forging a new era for the next generation – Progressive religious leaders and mindsets are instrumental for harmonious development.
Original Article published in Daily News on the 09th August 2017