(AsiaNews) - Challenging a government ban, priests, religious, family, friends
and parishioners came together in Uruthirapuram (Kilinochchi District) on 17
May for a special Mass to remember a young Tamil priest, Fr Mariampillai
Sarathjeevan, who stood by his people until his death, as well as the other
victims of Sri Lanka's bloody 30-year civil war.
Despite a blockade
imposed by the authorities and the massive presence of soldiers and police, scores
of people still managed to gather to pray and lay some garlands of flowers (pictured) at the monument built in the
young clergyman's memory.
On 18 May 2009,
the last day of a civil war that lasted almost 30 years, Fr Sara, as his parishioners
called him, died
of a heart attack. He was only 41.
weeks without food or water, he died helping his community move away from a no
fire zone, where thousands of people - including women and children - had
been massacred by the military.
On the fifth
anniversary of the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam, LTTE), Sri Lankan authorities organised official celebrations
in Matara, in the south of the country, in the presence of the President and the
highest office holders of the state.
Tamil-inhabited north, where the worst of the fighting took place, security
forces and police blocked access to many places of worship and buildings, to
prevent memorial services for the victims of the conflict.
before the commemoration, some soldiers came to the Church of St Fatima
Uruthirapuram and questioned the parish priest," Fr Terence Fernando told AsiaNews. "They asked whether outsiders
were coming for our event. On the 17th, many soldiers were deployed
on the road between Kilinochchi and Uruthipuram to control who came."
the government and the people in the south celebrate 'Victory Day' on 18 May,"
Fr Terence explained. However, "Those in the north are not allowed to remember
their loved ones killed during the war."
What is more, "Soldiers
have desecrated and destroyed cemeteries where thousands of people who died
during the conflict were buried. They have prevented people from building even
built a war museum and put up special monuments, especially in the
extermination camps in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, turning
them in attractions for tourists."
and such a "repressive" environment, "the local population was
able to build this small memorial near the church of Uruthirapuram," the priest
said, "where Fr Sarathjeevan served as a parish priest."
it on 18 May 2010, and since then we meet here every year to remember and honour
the good shepherd, and those who died in the war."
Born in the
small village of Bogawanthalawa on 13 May 1968, Fr Sara was the son of two
teachers. He followed his parents from posting to posting until they got to
Jaffna, their hometown. Here he studied at St Patrick's College, and in 1993
entered the St Martin Minor Seminary.
completed his studies in philosophy and theology at the St Francis Major Seminary,
he was ordained into the priesthood on 14 May 2003, and became the parish
priest at St. Fatima Uruthirapuram in March 2005.
As a result of increasing
violence, his community was displaced, and Fr Sara went with them.
ordered all NGOs, including the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees, to leave the war zone.
Along with other
eight priests, Fr Sara remained with his people until the day of his death.