UCA News

Sri Lanka


Updated: August 06, 1995 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has denied reports that the Air Force bombed a Catholic church in rebel-held Jaffna, saying Church officials confirm her stand.

"Only a few tiles of the roof were damaged by an explosion in the vicinity and the church building stands unscathed," Kumaratunga said in an interview broadcast over national radio and television Aug. 4.

A message confirming the government claim regarding Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Navaly town was expected imminently from Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna, according to the president.

Details of an explosion in the church compound July 9 that killed several people are still not clear. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), fighting for Tamil autonomy in the north and east, blamed government forces.

International Committee of the Red Cross officials confirmed early reports of a bombing, and a military spokesman then confirmed the destruction of the church but said rebel mortar fire could have been the cause.

A letter from Bishop Savundaranayagam to Kumaratunga said 65 civilians died and many nearby houses were destroyed.

In the Aug. 4 interview, Kumaratunga said Tamil rebels camped close to the church were firing mortars at soldiers advancing into rebel-held territory. "The army was firing artillery shells in a completely different direction."

-- Meanwhile, more than 700 Catholic fishing families have fled LTTE attacks on their east coast villages in the Kallarawa, Pullumottai and Wakara areas for Duwa on the west coast, to where they trace their roots.

Tamil rebels launched four major attacks on the Sinhalese migrants in 1985, 1987, 1990 and most recently in May. Forty-two men, women and children were killed in the late night attack May 25.

The Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development arranged the move. About 540 families are staying with friends and relatives, and 160 families in the school buildings alongside the Duwa church.

Special efforts are being made to find temporary shelter for them to prevent interruption of school sessions. Duwa is near Negombo, a mostly Catholic town about 40 kilometers north of Colombo.

Auxiliary Bishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, the national commission head, and Father J.B. Devarajah, national director of the bishops´ Social and Economic Development Centre, visited the refugees Aug. 3.

Catholic fisherfolk migrated to coastal areas of Trincomalee district starting in 1949. They built a church in Kallarawa and celebrated their first feast in honor of Saint Anthony in 1951. The late Father Arulappa, a Tamil priest of Trincomalee-Batticaloa diocese, looked after their pastoral needs.


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia