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Civic activists remember Father Killi

'People's priest' spent his life helping war victims in the North

Civic activists remember Father Killi
The service in the village of Vavunikulam reporter, Jaffna
Sri Lanka

April 26, 2011

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Christians and civic activists in both north and south have honored Father Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam, known as Father Killi and recognized as ‘the Peoples’ priest,’ who spent his life helping war victims in northern Sri Lanka.

On April 23 clergymen and lay activists gathered in his former parish in north to remember and continue his mission. The event was held at Our Lady of Velankanni Church in the rural village of Vavunikulam in the northern war hit area.

Father Killi was killed on the Mallaavi-Vavunikulam road in Vanni by an explosion after he was returning from a Sunday mass on April 20, 2008. Army and Tamil Tiger rebels have blamed each other for the death.

“Father Killi was an example of courage, strength and humanity. He spent a lifetime helping war victims. It is a great loss for south and north,” said Father Terrence Fernando, civic rights activist in the archdiocese of Colombo just after the program.

“He was with the peoples’ struggle during war. He also showed endless empathy towards refugees and displaced people while working tirelessly to improve their living standards,” he continued.

Father Killi was the founder and chairman of the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, a local independent human rights monitoring body.

Many Catholic priests were killed or went missing during 30 years of war. They include:

• Father George M. Jeyarajasingham, a Methodist priest, killed with his Muslim driver in 1984

• Father Mary Bastian, allegedly shot dead in 1985

• Father Chandra Fernando killed by unknown gunmen in 1988

• Father Eugene John Herbert SJ, disappeared in 1990

• Father S.Selvaraja, abducted and killed in 1997

• Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jimbrown, disappeared in 2006

• Father Pakiaranjith, killed by a claymore mine in 2007

• Father Xavier Karunaratnam, killed in 2008

• Father Francis Joseph, missing since 2009

and Sister Mary Agnita, killed 1983

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