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Tamil refugees demand daily Masses

Calls still being ignored, say occupants of displacement camps

Tamil refugees demand daily Masses
Priests conduct Sunday mass in a refugee camp in north reporter, Mannar
Sri Lanka

March 1, 2011

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Catholic Tamil refugees languishing in Sri Lankan displacement camps say their calls to military authorities to allow priests in to conduct daily Masses and other services are still going unanswered. They say many applications for priests made over the last 18 months have been systematically ignored by military and government officers. Many are claiming discrimination, questioning why pastors from other denominations and Hindu priests are allowed to stay in camps, while they have to make do with lay leaders. Priests are needed to nourish their spiritual lives and offer some comfort in what is a very difficult situation they say. Around 27,000 people remain in displacement camps awaiting resettlement following the end of Sri Lanka’s long and bitter civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009. All the Catholic priests in the camps left when some 280,000 people were resettled a few months after the end of the war. Since then priests visit every Sunday to offer weekly Masses and spiritual services. “Our lives would be much more bearable if we had a priest with us on a regular basis,” said Jacob Sinnappu, a 62-year-old refugee at Ananda Kumarasamy transit camp in Menik Farm, 29 kilometers  south west of Vavuniya  in Mannar diocese. The priests will help give us strength in difficult times, he said. Christian pastors and Hindu priests remained in camps and look after the spiritual need of the people, he said. Pastors of different denominations conduct Bible studies and services, while Catholics make do with lay leaders conducting evening prayers and catechism in temporary huts, Sinnappu added. “We’ve tried hard to get priests to stay in the camps, but to no avail. There’s no reply, not even a rejection,” said another refugee Madutheen Selvarajah. SR13463.1643

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