Mullikulam (AsiaNews) – The Tamil Catholics who have lived as internally displaced people (IDPs) in the jungle of Marichchikattu for the past 25 years celebrated Christmas amid mosquitoes, snakes and elephants.
"We were able to celebrate Christmas Mass only at 10 pm on 24 December, because it was too dangerous to go to Midnight Mass owing to the presence of elephants on the road," some of them told AsiaNews.
After so many years, the Tamils are still unable to return to their homes in the village of Mullikulam (in North Western Province), in the diocese of Mannar, which the military occupied during the civil war.
"With the loss of our homes, we lost our happiness,” some residents said. “We pray to Baby Jesus to make the authorities change their selfish attitude. We want our village back. "
The Tamil Catholic community in Marichchikattu was only able to attend Mass thanks to the intervention of the military, who provided two bus to drive people to and fro the church, avoiding the dangerous path they would have had to walk in the jungle.
"We are grateful for their help and for the fact that they offered us coffee and biscuits after the liturgy,” some worshippers said, “but our only prayer is to return to our village. "
Tamils have been in the village of Mullikulam since 1800, living off farming, cattle and fishing.
After the civil war broke out, the Navy seized their homes in 1990 to use for its own purpose. The local parish church of Our Lady of Assumption found itself within the perimeter of the naval base.
Former residents can come to the village only for religious services and children can come during school hours.
"Had we been in the village, we would have decorated the church and houses with Christmas decorations, organised carols and held celebrations,” said two youths, Dharshani Croos and Roxy. “None of this was done,” they told AsiaNews.
Some women say they came to the church in the afternoon of 24 December, and brought the crib with baby Jesus and simple decorations made of balloons.
Some members of the Navy helped decorate the front of the church with coloured lights.
"They have been really good to us,” said Calistus Croos. “They told us that they understand our plight, but they cannot do anything to improve the situation because everything depends on orders by senior officers."
“We enjoyed a happy life with enough money,” Croos added. “The earth gave us the means to live, but now we are displaced. Some pf us live in the jungle; others elsewhere. Many have died."