Priests participating in a chrism mass in Jaffna
Lay committees of parishes in Jaffna, and Tamil politicians, have denounced delays in arresting culprits who harassed priests.
At a series of parish council meetings including St James Church, St Mary’s Cathedral, and St Johns during April, people have complained that no actions were taken to identify or arrest a group which continues to insult, harass and threaten Catholic priests and anyone who tries to defend them.
For two years, church and peace activists in Jaffna peninsula have been calling on the government to investigate the cases and arrest the culprits as priests and nuns have been left with grief and fear. They have written petitions to the local media and politicians have raised the issue in public meetings.
Anton Jeganathan, the head of a legal firm and a rights activist in Jaffna, said the Church must walk a tightrope over the issues "because of their concerns over the still incomplete rehabilitation of the minority Tamils and their future.”
“Traditionally we respect all our priests, irrespective of religion, as our country is served by four major religions. These incidents should not be allowed to continue,” Jeganathan added.
Catholic Father C.G. Jayakumar, former head of Caritas-Jaffna, was splashed with buckets of water mixed with cow dung by an unidentified group at his mission house on the night of April 1. The group threw chili powder at his assistant who came to defend him.
In another incident, a former director of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace of Jaffna had his national identity card confiscated by unidentified men last year. He still has not got it back.
“We feel fear and grief,” the director, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Jaffna Commander Major Gen Mahinda Hathurusinghe pledged to increase military patrols and promised to take all measures necessary to stop any group other than the army carrying weapons.
During chrism mass when hundreds of diocesan priests and lay people gathered, Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna appealed to Catholics to pray for the priests and encourage them as they face many challenges and temptations. “We have enough priests in our diocese . But we need more, since there are dioceses with fewer priests and ruined churches.”
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