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Sri Lankan nun who fought for women's rights dies at 84

Good Shepherd sister praised for helping migrant workers and war widows

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Published: August 09, 2019 07:42 AM GMT

Updated: August 09, 2019 07:44 AM GMT

Sri Lankan nun who fought for women's rights dies at 84

Sister Mary Angela Fernando (center) attends a demonstration in Colombo in this file photo. (ucanews.com photo)

Tributes have been paid to a Sri Lankan nun who helped migrant women and war widows.

Good Shepherd Sister Mary Angela Fernando died aged 84 on Aug. 7 after failing to recover from surgery for liver problems. Her mortal remains were laid to rest at Good Shepherd Convent in Wattala on Aug. 8.

Sister Fernando, who worked for the women’s desk at Caritas Sri Lanka from 1985 to 1992, traveled to Lebanon in 2006 amid a war conducted mainly between Hezbollah militants and Israel.

She helped Sri Lankan female domestic workers in Lebanon who had been subjected to brutal physical and mental harassment, exploitation, non-payment of wages and work without rest by employers.

Juliet Scolastica Silva, who also helped migrant workers, described Sister Fernando as the “saint of Lebanon women.”

"She became a ‘mother’ to ensure the security of migrant women in Lebanon who were helpless during the war. She met those who came back from Lebanon and shared their day-to-day challenges," she said.

For nearly three decades from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lanka experienced a civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"At the time of her death, Sister Fernando was a member of Sri Lanka’s Inter-Religious Committee. She worked with Buddhist monks and Hindu and Muslim priests to promote peace and reconciliation after the war," said Silva.

"The task now facing the people of the country is immense and requires all hands. Sister Fernando made every effort to begin a process of healing and reconciliation."

Pushpa Sri Kanthi, a women’s rights activist, said Sister Fernando “understood the insecurity of women” and provided skills training and awareness programs to help women who had faced difficulties.

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"She worked with women in war-hit areas. This brave nun fought for women's rights," Kanthi told ucanews.com.

Kanthi said most nuns in Sri Lanka are very much confined to convents but it was common to see Sister Fernando demonstrating on the streets.

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