Introduction / History Sri Lanka has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately, a 26-year civil war starting in 1983 took place in the island country. Up to 100,000 died and there was millions of dollars in property damage. The majority Buddhist Sinhalese declared victory over the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Since that time the Sri Lankan economy has begun to rebound, and tourists have returned to the island. The Vellidura are a small subgroup of the Sinhalese Buddhists who live in villages the hill region near the central Sri Lankan city of Kandy.
What are their lives like? The Vellidura are integrated into the larger Sinhalese people. The Vellidura are known most of all for their Sesath weaving. It takes a Vellidura woman from one to two weeks to make one Sesath or colorful, circular sunshade. She gathers many different materials from the nearby forests. The Sesath art form may become extinct in the near future as most young Vellidura women are not interested in learning the craft from their mothers and grandmothers. The Vellidura tend to marry within their group, but marriage with other Sinhalese groups is becoming common. Many Vellidura young people leave the villages in search of better educational and professional opportunities in the cities.
What are their beliefs? Nearly all Vellidura practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha. He lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation. The Vellidura practice the Theravada school of Buddhism. The majority of Buddhists also practice animism, a belief in the spirit world. In animism, spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday which commemorates the day that Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in December. Eating certain foods on an auspicious day will bring one good fortune throughout the year.
What are their needs? The Vellidura need to hear a presentation of the gospel which they can understand. They must see that they are sinners in need of forgiveness. Only Jesus can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life. The Vellidura would also benefit from learning new job skills.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to send workers to the Vellidura to tell them about Jesus. Pray the Lord creates a spiritual hunger in the hearts of the Vellidura that longs for biblical truth. Ask God to raise up a Disciple Making Movement among the Vellidura of Sri Lanka in this decade. Pray that the Sinhalese Bible gets into the hands of the Vellidura.