19 January 2018
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  • > South East Asia
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • » 07/24/2014, 00.00


    Bishop of Mannar: Pope Francis’ visit, a consolation for victims of war

    Msgr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, talks about expectations ahead of the apostolic trip scheduled for January 2015. The Church's mission in the north ravaged by civil war, with the population "left to itself" by the government and institutions. The discrimination suffered by the Tamil minority, and "the only possible solution: a federal and truly democratic state."

    Mannar (AsiaNews) - " Pope Francis's visit will be a great consolation for the people in the north of Sri Lanka who have been affected by war and who feel abandoned", says Msgr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar (Northern Province), home to one of the pontiff's destinations during his apostolic journey to the island scheduled for the first half of January 2015.

    After Colombo, the island's capital, the Pope will travel to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, an important place of pilgrimage for all of South Asia. Every year more than 600 thousand people come to pray to the Virgin there.

    "He will celebrate a Mass here - the prelate told AsiaNews - but he will also meet the survivors of the civil war, to listen to their painful testimonies and pray with and for them. We expect a large turnout from all the dioceses of the north and some of the South". The population, he adds, "welcomes his visit as a blessing from God, and we thank the Lord for that."

    The diocese of Mannar - which includes the districts of Mannar and Vavuniya - is part of the "Catholic belt" that stretches from Negombo (Central Province) in Jaffna, as the area colonized by the Portuguese - who brought the first Catholic missionaries - is called.  Erected in 1981, according to the latest available data (2004) it has a population of over 219 thousand people, 33% of them Catholic.

    From 1983 to 2009, the island was the scene of a bloody civil war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), an organization fighting to create an independent state in the north and east of the country, largely Tamil.

    "During this war - Msgr. Joseph tells AsiaNews - we suffered losses of all kinds: human lives, houses, properties. Some of our priests were killed, churches and places we launched were destroyed. The population has been abandoned to itself, with only our presence to help them. I have to thank Caritas, who did a great job to help people in those years. "

    Yet, says the bishop, "five years on from the end of the conflict, there has been no rehabilitation for the survivors. Nobody, neither the government nor anyone else, has taken responsibility for the 89 thousand war widows, the orphans, the maimed, people with psychological trauma. "

    "The support and rehabilitation of a human being is a long journey" - said the bishop. "Children must be educated, clothed and treated if they are sick. We are there taking care of all of this with the help of friends and benefactors. But the government is not doing any rehabilitation work: they are only concerned with building roads and bridges and I cannot understand why they are not implementing measures for the families of the thousands of people who have died in war for the maimed, for those suffering from psychological problems. "

    Since the end of the war, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has initiated a number of development projects - especially in tourism - to make Sri Lanka the "Wonder of Asia". "With all these initiatives, the authorities are trying to get money from foreign lenders - says  Msgr. Joseph -. I understand that there must be progress, but the government should make its people its priority. Fostering the development of the people , and not allow them to slide backwards"

    Next to support social, added the bishop, "the Church also gives religious support. We try to support them and help them grow in faith, taking care of the sacramental aspects. We are there present, to accompany people throughout the rebuilding and rehabilitation of their lives. "

    The problem of survivors' rehabilitation  is closely connected with the living conditions of the Tamils​​, the country's second largest ethnic group (11.2%) after the Sinhalese (74.88%). The war became a real ethnic conflict between the two communities, and even today the Tamils ​​complain of unequal treatment and undergo continuing violations by the authorities.

    Msgr. Joseph believes "the current problems that have existed for a hundred years, have just one solution, which is finding a communion in each other's diversity. Tamils ​​and Sinhalese cultures, languages ​​and traditions. We could follow the India model and create a federal state, a single framework in which to implement a decentralization of power. But the government does not want this: It would have to change the Constitution, and the president. This personality has too often used his power, especially against minorities"(GM)


    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    20/03/2009 SRI LANKA
    Young people from south visit peers in north, under the tragedy of the war
    An initiative promoted by the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement. For three days, 25 young people from the south of the island lived together with 120 young people from the north. They worked together in the hospital of Mannar, among the victims of the conflict. The young people from the south discovered the brutality of the war, while those from the north found out that not all of the Sinhalese are soldiers, and that "they are nice people."

    13/01/2015 SRI LANKA - VATICAN
    Pope in Sri Lanka: A visit to reconcile differences
    Pope Francis has arrived in Colombo, welcomed by dances, elephants and children's choirs, together with military honors. A country still marked by the consequences of the civil war, which has claimed more than 60 thousand lives. "Pursuing the truth" about the horrors of war not "to open old wounds," but "for their healing." Openness and joint efforts among members of different religions. Economic development that cares about human dignity, without excluding anyone. The new president Maithripala Sirisena wants to work for "peace and reconciliation" of his people.

    24/11/2017 15:17:00 SRI LANKA
    Mgr Emmanuel Fernando, the new bishop of Mannar, in the service of Tamils

    Pope Francis appointed him bishop two days ago. He will meet diocese’s staff to understand its most urgent needs. The province is still feeling the consequences of the country’s civil war. The new bishop plans to continue in the footsteps of his predecessors. Politics and religion do not mix, but it is urgent to defend people.

    28/05/2012 SRI LANKA
    Five thousand Catholics, Muslims and Hindus defend Mannar bishop against "vile" accusations
    Sri Lanka's Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, a Muslim, accuses Mgr Rayappu Joseph of stirring the Tamil community against Muslims in his region. People from across the country come together to demand an official apology. "No one defends our rights like the bishops," Muslims and Hindus say.

    11/08/2014 SRI LANKA
    For Mannar bishop, investigation into civil war abductions is a whitewash
    Mgr Rayappu Joseph refuses to testify at an investigation by the Presidential Commission in his district. In a letter explaining his decision, he says, "Sri Lanka's problem is the lack of political will to end impunity".

    Editor's choices

    North Korea will send a high-level Olympic delegation to Pyeongchang

    After two years of tensions, the first meeting between delegations from North and South Korea. Seoul proposes that North and South athletes march side by side in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games (February 9-25, 2018).

    Pope: respect for the rights of persons and nations essential for peace

    In his address to diplomats, Francis asks for the solution to conflicts - starting with Syria - and tensions - from Korea to Ukraine, Yemen, South Sudan and Venezuela - and augurs that migrants and the "discarded" be welcomed, like unborn children and the elderly and respect for freedom of religion and opinion, the right to work.


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSSRSS channel 


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®