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People pray to ward off impending food crisis

Traditional Sri Lankan harvest festival a somber affair after floods ravage crops

People pray to ward off impending food crisis
Parishioners from St Lucia’s Cathedral cook ’pongal’ during the harvest festival reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

January 17, 2011

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Catholics in Sri Lanka are praying the country will be saved from a chronic food crisis following the worst flooding in years. Floods in Sri Lanka have affected nearly one million people in the northern, central and eastern provinces and destroyed over 400,000 acres of rice paddies and 250,000 acres of other crops. In the worst hit areas the annual “Thai Pongal” (boiling rice) thanksgiving festival was cancelled. However, in non-affected areas, thousands of Catholics and Hindus celebrated the harvest festival on Jan. 15 and prayed for protection from likely famine and price hikes in the coming months. In Colombo, hundreds of parishioners, priests and religious cooked traditional Pongal (sweet rice) at St. Lucia’s Cathedral and then joined together in a traditional Tamil Mass. “The floods are a sign from God,” Father Sebastiampillai Anthony Mariathas from the major seminary in Kandy, said during the festival in Colombo. “This time we need to pray to protect us from going hungry as a food crisis could become a reality very soon,” he said. The priest said the floods were a result of man’s destruction of nature. “Nature punishes you if you go against it. Every action has as opposite re-action,” he warned. “Let’s act together before it is too late. The harvest festival is also a time of group reflection where the past is re-examined critically, re-assessed pragmatically and future plans renewed optimistically,” Father Mariathas said. Sri Lanka faces the loss of 15 – 20 percent of her food harvest due to the flooding, according to government experts. Related reports Caritas volunteers assist flood victims Church center celebrates harvest festival despite cyclone devastation SR12882.1637
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