Colombo - Across Sri Lanka, lay people, priests and religious celebrated the national day for Small Christian Communities, the true agents of evangelisation in the country's dioceses, this according to Mgr Kingsley Swampillai, who is in charge of the Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA). For him, such basic groups enable the "community to take responsibility for sharing the mission of Christian hope with their neighbours." This year's theme was 'Go You are sent forth following Jesus in Mission - Small Christian Communities Serving and Ministering'.
In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (1990), John Paul II said, "These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a 'civilization of love'."
In Sri Lanka, the local Bishops' Conference recognised these communities in 1996, a choice backed by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) and the Commission for the Laity.
In 16 years, the Church has become "outward looking and participatory", a "sharing Church, a serving Church and a vibrant Church," a "new way of being Church," Bishop Swampillai said.
"Here is Sri Lanka, small Christian communities are neighbourhood groups of 12-15 people who meet once a week to read and discuss the Bible, sharing their experiences, discussing how God is present in their lives and organising and participating in parish activities," AsIPA's national secretary Nimal I. Perera explained. "By learning to know one another, they become a true community in which people help each other and together they help other communities, becoming the leaven for the transformation of society."
"Everything that is done in the name of Jesus, whether big or small, has no value if we do not recognise and service Christ among our neighbours," said Fr Eric C. Fernando, small Christian communities national director.