06/01/2012, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Young Buddhists and Hindus find a new life in the love of Jesus

by Melani Manel Perera
Sister Augustine, a nun at the Ave Maria Convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Nayakakanda, teaches catechism. In the first year and half of teaching, she brought 66 people to baptism. Currently, she is helping an additional six, drawn to conversion by love or hardships. Irrespective of their reason, if they "are here, it is because the Lord wants" it.

Wattala (AsiaNews) - Udeni Damayanthi, 28, is a young Buddhist woman from Pollonnaruwa District (Northern Province, Sri Lanka) who wants to become Catholic. Ten years ago, she moved to the small village of Medirigiriya in Wattala (Western Province) to work. There she befriended various Catholics, and her mother also got sick.

"Through my mother's illness, I experienced the love of Jesus for the first time," she told AsiaNews. Thus, she began going to church with her friends and pray for her mother's health. Seven years later, she got better and Udeni's interest in God and prayer continued.

Her need to convert became that more personal when she became engaged to a Catholic man. At the same time, she met Sister Augustine, who teaches catechism at the Ave Maria Convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Nayakakanda, who provided her with the answers she sought. She and five other men and women are currently sharing the same journey of catechesis.

In the first year and half of teaching, Sister Augustine "brought 66 people onto the path that led to the baptism," the nun told AsiaNews.

In her first meeting, when the sister greeted for the first time, she reminded them, "Everything happens according to God's plan. If you are here, it is because the Lord wants you to become his sons and daughters. And through you, others can learn about and experience a Christian life."

Not everyone is like Udeni with a positive story to tell. Devi Rodrigo, who comes to catechesis with her 13-year-old daughter, has a lazy husband who does not help the family.
 
"Our life is miserable," she said. "Only Jesus is close to us; only he accompanies us. No one else can help us stay clear-minded even in the face of hardships."

Devi found a great deal of support among some Catholic priests and nuns. "With them, I came to realise the value of a Christian life. For this reason, I want to convert."

Conversion, in other cases, is the result of marrying a Catholic. This is what happened to Kobiga, a Hindu Tamil, who met Jegan, a Catholic Tamil.

"With him, I found a different, beautiful way of life," she said. "I am happy and for this reason I want to become Catholic."

Jegan works at the Forts Authority in Colombo. He goes with his would-be bride to catechism.

"My family is Hindu, but when I was young I began going to church and participate in their activities. Eventually, I converted. Since then, the Lord has blessed my life. However, I still feel not fully mature as a believer. For this reason, I decided to go on this journey as well."

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