05/21/2012, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Catholic nuns remember those who died and those who disappeared in civil war

by Melani Manel Perera
Whilst the government commemorated fallen soldiers, the Sisters' Link for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation held a counter-commemoration and a prayer. Three years since the end of the civil war on 19 May 2009, the nuns say that remembrance must not discriminate and that only forgiveness and compassion can bring true reconciliation.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - On the third anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's civil war, a group of Catholic nuns known as the Sisters' Link for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation said that not only soldiers but all "victims of the conflict" should be remembered because "we are all human beings". For this purpose, on Saturday they organised a prayer service in Our Lady of Fatima Church in memory of all the people who died in 30 years of conflict.

The nuns gathered during the official commemorations organised by the government the same day at which time it handed out medals to the families of the soldiers killed in action defending the nation against Tamil rebels.

"The seeds of reconciliation can take root only if we have forgiveness and compassion," said Sister Helen Fernando, of the Sisters of the Holy Family, before a group of some 150 people that included fellow nuns, Catholic priests and lay people. "Political leaders should be humble enough to apologise to the people for all the innocent victims of this conflict."

A black flag and a white flag were flown at the prayer service. "The black flag reminds us of our dead, those who disappeared and the darkness that still inhabits this nation," Sister Deepa Fernando told AsiaNews.

For the nun, who is also a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, "three years after [the civil war], many people are still waiting in refugee camps without basic services or jobs."

For this reason, "Even religious leaders should apologise" for this situation, she insisted, because they were silent and did nothing for a long time.

Conversely, the white flag is a reminder that "we are all children of light and must pray and act so that everyone's rights are recognised."

Sandayaa Eknaligoda, wife of a disappeared journalist, and Malathi, a war widow, were present at the gathering. For them, the meeting provided "a good opportunity to remind this society that we too belong to the community."

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