08/28/2012, 00.00
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First Mass for Mullikulam refugees after five years

by Melani Manel Perera
In the Queen of Heaven Church, the bishop of Mannar called on those present to pray for the community that it may go back to its village. Almost a thousand people took part in the event. Two months ago, the government resettled the refugees in a jungle. For about 150 Catholics from southern Sri Lanka who attended the ceremony, "This is an insult to every human being."

Mannar (AsiaNews) - For the first time in five years, refugees in Mullikulam (Mannar District, Northern Province) celebrated their parish feast day on Sunday at the Queen of Heaven Church. With almost a thousand people in attendance, Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, called on the faithful to pray for the community that it may go home and see its rights as Sri Lankan citizens protected. A delegation of 150 Catholics from southern Sri Lanka, lay and religious, took part in the celebration to express their solidarity towards the refugees.

Displaced from the village of Mullikulam for the first time more than 20 years ago, 215 families (about 400 people) have been living in the jungle of Marichchikattu since June,a place infested with mosquitoes, elephants and snakes, and only two toilets, unable to fish or farm. In theory, their move is part of the government's resettlement program for people internally displaced (IDP) by the civil war.

Mgr Joseph celebrated the Mass with Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda and another priest, originally from Mullikulam. In his homily, delivered in Tamil, the bishop spoke about the community's current predicament and the difficulties it must face every day.

"These people don't want to be deprived of their basic rights," the prelate said. "All they want from the government is a chance to back to their homes and village."

At the end of the celebration, Catholics who came from the south visited the jungle where the refugees live.

"This is an insult to every human being," they told AsiaNews. "It is a great injustice for the government to claim that it has resettled 98 per cent of the all IDPs. That's a lie. Why is the government hoodwinking these people?"

As he said goodbye to the nuns and priests from the south, Mgr Rajappu Joseph ask them to convey the Mullikulam case to Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka.

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