07/28/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Prayer vigil in Colombo to remember the victims of ‘black July’

Melani Manel Perera
The civil war that pits government forces against Tamil Tigers has killed 70,000 people in 25 years. The country’s Christians organise a prayer vigil to honour the memory of those who died and to call for peace and prosperity for Sri Lanka as a whole.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – A prayer vigil was held to remember the victims of ‘black July’, 25 years ago, and call for peace and prosperity in a country that is still marked by violent clashes between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The event, which took place last Wednesday, was organised by the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM). It brought together more than 300 people, including priests, nuns, pastors and lay people.

Inspired by the theme “Let us love life, oppose killings”, participants met at Colombo’s St. Philip Neri Church to pray for and promote Sri Lankan unity.

“It is a primary duty of every Christian to defend life. We have not done so in the past; we still do not do it enough today,” said human rights activist Ajith Hadly Perera as he addressed those present, recalling the massacre of July 1983.

The civil war pitting army and rebel forces has killed more than 70,000 people. Tamil separatists still want independence for a vast area in the island’s north-east which they call Tamil Ealam, and have first and foremost perpetrated massacres and carried out attacks against the civilian population to achieve their goal.

Fr Rohan Silva, a member of the Christian Solidarity Movement in Colombo, said that there is a widespread sense of sadness for past bloodshed and for the fratricidal struggle that has recently blackened the country’s history and created many victims and refugees.

“We Christians must raise our voice, assert that we love life and state our opposition to the logic of violence,” he said.

“We must stand against injustice and do our utmost that they are not repeated, said Fr Anura Perera of the Methodist Church of Kandy.

The year 1983 was a horrible year, a tragedy that is still alive in the memory of many Sri Lankans, a wound that time has not healed as many vigil participants testified.

At the end of the religious function a demonstration organised by the ‘Forum for Life’ movement began. Participants shouted slogans for life, respect for human rights and justice, and peace in the country.

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