08/23/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan Catholics go on a pilgrimage from north to south for peace

by Melani Manel Perera
March participants, 25 nuns and men religious, want to pass on a message of “peace and harmony” to the nation so that “love for life” may overcome the abhorrent logic of war.
 Dalupotha (AsiaNews) – “The civil war has ruined the lives of over a million people in every ethnic group. Nights have been dangerous and the rising sun has not brought much more security, especially in the northern part of the country. Often I have had to lift hundreds of dead bodies: soldiers, Tamil Tiger rebels or Tamil and Sinhalese civilians,” said Fr R.J.E. Jayaseelan, OMI.

He spoke at a prayer vigil held today at St Anthony’s Church in Dalupotha during a meeting that brought together more than 500 people—students, members of religious congregations, teachers and ordinary people—in a parish in Colombo diocese. The theme of the event was “Let Us Protect Life”.

“We must cleanse our hearts and promote mutual forgiveness by invoking the help and protection of the Virgin Mary,” said Father R J E Jayaseelan, a professor at the local university.

In order to encourage peace and harmony Fr Alfred Alexander, an ethnic Tamil, endorsed a “symbolic pilgrimage” that left St Mary Cathedral yesterday (diocese of Chilaw) across the length of the island nation, from north to south.

A group of about 25 people, including priests and nuns, took to the road; their goal is to pass on a message of peace and harmony to the entire nation.

“We are not interested in getting more people to join the march,” Father Alfred explained. “Our action is symbolic; to walk from north to south as a way to show solidarity to the people we meet along our path.”

In the past “both sides made mistakes,” he added. “This must be acknowledged and accepted. Now it is time however to look forward and promote a logic of life through this march. And to accomplish it I put myself into God’s hands, totally.”

“Our goal is to spread the idea that the war can be stopped through power sharing which preserves national unity’ said Fr Tissa Balasooriya during the prayer vigil. “Pressure can be brought on the rebels so that they can lay down their arms.”

Christians must take the lead in this and ask the “government and the opposition to find a common solution.”

Tomorrow the pilgrimage for peace will reach Our Lady of Sri Lanka. A Mass will be held there. The rosary will also be recited for a special purpose, namely to get God’s and the Virgin Mary’s blessing for the “whole country and its people, whatever their ethnic background or religious creed.”

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