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The cyclone-damaged St. Peter’s Church

Tamil fishermen rebuild storm-wrecked church reporter, Jaffna
Sri Lanka

June 17 2010

Fishing families in northern Sri Lanka have rebuilt a church that was ravaged by the 2008 cyclone.

When the displaced Tamil families returned to Mandathivu, the island which they had been forced to leave four years ago, they found St Peter's church in ruins caused by cyclone Nisha.

They erected a new portico so church services could resume immediately and are now collecting money for a complete restoration. "Rebuilding it was absolutely essential because life in the island revolves around temples and churches," said fisherman Asservatham Pathinathar.

They had been forced off the island in 2006 because it was strategically important to the Sri Lankan navy in their battle with Tamil rebels. They were allowed back last December, but found parts of the island land mined and dozens of homes destroyed or still under naval requisition. Most of the 300 returning families, many of them Catholic, are still living in makeshift sheds.

"With the war and the cyclone, which also destroyed a lot of our old fishing grounds, everything seems against us," said Pathinathar.

"But we will complete the church building as we are inspired by a Tamil proverb - ’koyil illa ooril kudiyirukkathey’: Do not live in a village where there is no church."

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