Seth Sarana helping people suffering because of coronavirus, without divisions
by Melani Manel Perera

The Archbishop of Colombo calls on Catholics to comfort the sick and those who lost their jobs. This is a great show of charity during the Easter period: helping everyone, Catholics and others, without showing off. The country lacks a food distribution system during emergencies. The government quarantine is making it hard to hand out aid.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – In locked down cities, isolated villages and millions of people shut inside in their homes, the quarantine imposed by the Sri Lankan government is creating more poverty.

The government has not set up any mechanism to help people who lost their jobs and cannot feed their families. No emergency food distribution has been instituted. Everything is left to individual initiatives.

So far, there have been 180 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with six deaths and 38 patients released from hospital yesterday. For now, the outbreak seems to be contained, but providing support to people remains a problem.

"We are listening to the cry for help from people affected by COVID-19 and we are trying to help those who need it, in particular by distributing food aid," said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Seth Sarana, the Caritas of the Archdiocese of Colombo, speaking to AsiaNews.

Recently, Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, called on the clergy and faithful in his archdiocese to provide human and material comfort to the many Sri Lankans who are suffering as a result of the pandemic.

“Help those who suffer, give them food in this moment of emergency,” he said. “These efforts are aimed above all at those who lost their jobs as well as the sick, and for Catholics this is all the more important because we are in the Easter period,” added the cardinal.

In light of the situation, the archbishop is urging the faithful to help those in difficulty, whether Catholic or not. For him, “There must be no divisions at such a time of emergency. Hence, I invite everyone to help the poor privately, without making it public.”

The curfew imposed by the government has made life in Sri Lanka difficult. Many stores are closed and although people have money, they cannot go out and buy what they need for their daily needs.

“The biggest problem for us is the lack of manpower to transport aid. Those who could help us are forced to remain closed in their own homes,” Father Ramanayake explained.

“In such conditions,” he added, “he missionary Fathers who live at the seat of the archdiocese are a great help, so are the faithful who manage to reach our facilities.

“They went from store to store looking for rice, dhal, flour, green beans, ravioli, cereals, coffee, tea and other basic foods, and brought them to whoever needed it. Even a company, Atlas, has contributed by donating sugar.”