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Sri Lanka

Workshop Strengthens Social Apostolate Of Anuradhapura Diocese

Updated: July 14, 2004 05:00 PM GMT
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Communication and collaboration between priests and Church development workers is being stressed to strengthen the social apostolate of Anuradhapura diocese in north-central Sri Lanka.

A workshop on Church social and human development focused on these issues at the Bishop´s House in Anuradhapura, about 165 kilometers northeast of Colombo.

Sethsaviya, Anuradhapura diocese´s Justice, Peace and Human Development center, organized the July 5 event. Oblate Bishop Norbert Andradi, Father Damian Fernando, national director of Caritas Sri Lanka, Sethsaviya´s director and staff members attended the workshop with about 30 priests.

Most priests who came said they had been unaware of Sethsaviya center and its work. They also pointed out that many Catholics wonder why the social and development arm of the diocese supports people of other faiths, while seemingly ignoring the needs of Catholics. The priests also spoke about allegations that Christians are engaged in converting people to Christianity through social work.

The priests and the staff of the center agreed to increase their communication and collaboration, and to work with Catholics in parishes, while maintaining their links with people of other religions.

Bishop Andradi, 54, told the participants it is important for priests and Religious to know how to engage in social ministry, especially at this time when the Church´s social involvement is a sensitive issue in the country.

Since early this year, dozens of Christian worship places in Sri Lanka have been attacked by religious fanatics reportedly claiming they were avenging the unethical conversion of Buddhists by Christian fundamentalist sects. The government has also drafted a bill to punish people who use force, allurement or fraudulent means to convert any person from one religion to another.

The bishop explained that according to the Second Vatican Council, the Church´s mission is not limited to "saving souls," but also includes "work for integral human development" that is not confined to Catholics alone.

He asserted that "this is very important in our diocese, which comprises mainly Buddhists and is home to poor farmers who feed the country by providing the bulk of the country´s rice, the staple food in the country."

The workshop concluded that the key problems affecting people in the diocese are unemployment and insufficient educational facilities and opportunities. It also identified other problems, including alcoholism, child prostitution, inefficient and ineffective state services, and insufficient housing.

The staff of Caritas Sri Lanka and Sethsaviya also spoke about their respective activities, such as cultural programs, lobbying local government for basic needs, organic farming, promoting peace and reconciliation, saving schemes and income generation projects.

Father Fernando reiterated to seminar participants that working for justice, peace and human development is an integral part of the Church´s mission. He pointed out that though Caritas Sri Lanka began with relief and charity for the poor, it has also begun to address the causes of oppression and poverty.

Bishop Andradi also expressed appreciation to staff of the center for going into remote corners of the diocese that priests and Religious cannot serve.

END

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