08/24/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka remembers Fr. Brown and aid workers disappeared into thin air during the war

by Melani Manel Perera
The priest of the diocese of Jaffna disappeared three years ago during clashes between army and Tamil Tigers near his parish in Allaipiddy. From 2006 until the end of the conflict the number of religious and humanitarian workers killed or missing during the war are over 70. Authorities’ silence shrouds their fate.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Church of Sri Lanka has remembered Fr. Nihal Jim Brown (pictured), a priest of the diocese of Jaffna, who died in August 2006 during clashes between the government army and Tamil Tigers in Allaipiddy in the north.  

Friends, brother priests, relatives and aid workers have honoured the memory of the priest at a ceremony organized by the Christian Alliance for Social Action (CASA) at the auditorium of the Caritas-Sedec in Colombo.   "When he disappeared Fr. Brown was only 34 years", says Fr. Ravichandran, friend and brother of the priest.  "He was born in 1972 and was ordained in 2004. He started his mission in the parish of Allaipiddy in early August of 2006 and after only ten days he disappeared”.  

The church entrusted to the young priest was immersed in the war zone between the military and Tamil rebels. On 20 August 2006, the fighting arrived on the doorstep of the parish. In order to protect the faithful from bombs Fr. Brown opened the church. The ensuing battles caused 20 deaths and nearly 100 injured. The priest asked the military for permission to bring the survivors to hospital. The last witness to see him at a Navy check-point, claimed that he was in the company of his assistant Wenceslaus Vimalathas, a 40 year old and father of five children. An officer of the Sri Lanka Navy was threatening them. There has been no more news of Fr Brown and Vimalathas once they left Allaipiddy.

Three years on from their disappearance, relatives and the Church of Sri Lanka have not given up their quest for answers as to the two men’s fate.  Msgr. Thomas Savundaranayagam, Bishop of Jaffna, has tried in every way to get news about Fr. Brown but without success.

Ainslie Joseph, head of the CASA, tells AsiaNews: "In 2007 we even wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but we have not received any reply”.  From 2006 until the end of the conflict, the number of religious and humanitarian workers killed or disappeared during the war stands at 70. Total silence surrounds their fate. "The authorities have not made any investigation, and no committee of inquiry has been set up - Joseph says - but we can not remain silent before the priests and the workers who sacrificed their lives on a mission to do good"

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