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Still no justice for fallen martyrs

NEGOMBO (UCAN) - Not one person has been held accountable for the murders of 13 clergy and lay rights workers who struggled for justice during more than 25 years of civil war.


Relatives of murdered clergy and laypeople walk in procession

But the men and women have been declared martyrs as their friends, family and parishioners try to make sense of the deaths.

The healing process has been made harder by knowing their murderers remain free.

The community here held a procession which gathered Tamil and Sinhalese Catholics from around the country to remember the fallen.

The crowd of around 1,000 also included Buddhists.

Some carried pictures of the dead. Many wept openly as they remembered those they had lost.

“It is a long cry for justice,” Father Sherard Jayawardana, a priest in Mannar diocese told UCA News.

The 13 Sinhalese and Tamil Christians comprised nine priests, a Methodist pastor, two laymen and a nun.

One of the earliest murders was in 1987 when Father Michael Rodrigo was gunned down while celebrating Mass.

There has never been an inquiry into his death.

Another priest, Father Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam, known to all as Father Killi, died in a roadside blast after celebrating Mass. He had spent a lifetime helping war victims in the north.

The Army and Tamil Tiger rebels blamed each other for his death but no one has been brought to justice.

“His death has changed things among Christians,” Mariampillai Gnanakanthi, the priest’s sister said.

But those left behind must try to make sense of his death.

“All communities should be awakened to their mission to continue,” Gnanakanthi said. She said those who are left behind yearn for justice and closure.

“Are we victims of the ‘suffer in silence’ mentality? Many have carried that suffering inside them for years. They also carried a sense of powerlessness. They say, ‘I could not help, what could I have done?

“Long years of training have created the habit of suffering in silence,” she told UCA News.

“Let’s continue the work of the martyrs to build a just society for all,” said Mahinda Namal, the editor a Christian newspaper and main speaker at the gathering.

The full list of the murdered clergy and lay rights workers is:

Father Jim Brown
Father Nicholas Pillai Pakiaranjith
Father Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam
Father Chandra Fernando
Father John Herbiert
Father Selvarajah
Father Michael Rodrigo
Father Srilal Amaratunga
Father Mary Bastian
Pastor Jeyarajasingam
Sister Mary Agnita
Mr Canisius Fernando
Mr Sujith Prasanna

Courtesy: UCA News ~ Union of Catholic Asian News


Fr.Thiruchchelvam Nihal Jim Brown (1972 -2006)

Related: Sep 2006: Tamil Catholics perturbed over missing Jaffna Priest, by D.B.S. Jeyaraj


Lets hope that the new regime launches a full investigation into these disappearnces and bring to justice those involved. These are matters that cannot be forgotten and require the attention of civilised society. Justice must be done to those affected inclding next of kin and adequate compensation dispensed by the state for its own lapses.

Posted by: SriLankan | January 20, 2010 07:52 PM

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