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Post-war healing mission of the Church

Caritas Sri Lanka recently honoured nearly 50 persons who had rendered yeoman service in delivering humanitarian assistance for war affected families, both during and after the end of the military conflict in the North and East. Among those whose work was appreciated were Bishops, Caritas Diocesan Directors and their staff as well as volunteers, public servants and civil society leaders.

Welcoming participants to the event held at SEDEC auditorium on 21st August under the patronage of the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Most Rev Dr Pierre Nguyen Van Tot, Rev Fr George Sigamoney, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka said that this was an occasion where Caritas as a Church organization would look back at a journey with war affected communities during the past three decades.” The dynamic role of the Church and our wide range of projects and programs carried out can be summarized in one short sentence”, Fr Sigamoney said. “That is – we did all this to share the love of Jesus with our fellowmen”.

It is also proper for Caritas to remember, recognize and appreciate those who had accompanied the Church in this journey, especially those who faced unspeakable challenges in the course of their work and even suffered injury and death, Fr Sigamoney added. “Nothing of what we did was easy work and none of it could have been accomplished without the cooperation and collaboration of many who partnered with us, both within and outside the Caritas network”, he said. “The very essence of the Caritas mission is that we continue to remain alive and alert to the needs of the people, anytime and anywhere”.

Most Rev Dr Vianney Fernando, Chairman of the Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development in his message said that as the social arm of the Catholic Church, Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC is mandated to respond, in the light of the Gospels and in the light of the social teachings of the Church, to various humanitarian crisis situations, including natural and man-made disasters. SEDEC is also called upon to engage in the work of human development, to strive for peace and build a just society based on human dignity and human rights. It is this mandate that SEDEC endeavours to fulfill through the collaboration of its National Centre and the various Diocesan Centres which function under the guidance of the respective Bishops.” Today, our hearts are filled with gratitude as we look back on how we have responded to such situations. We remember all those who helped us to wipe away the tears of the many whose lives were shattered by the painful experiences they had to undergo”, His Lordship said.

A publication titled “Reflections of Love” which gives a snapshot view of the activities carried out by Caritas during the period under review was released at this event. It was compiled and edited by Mr Trevor Ludowyke, a well-known Catholic writer, broadcaster and lay leader.
A second publication launched on this day was a book which articulates the perspectives offered by different faiths on the restoration of human dignity. Titled “ Respecting human dignity – expressions from religious teachings”, it was compiled and edited by Mr Freddie Jayawardene of Caritas Sri Lanka National Centre.

Addressing the meeting participants among whom were several Catholic Bishops, priests, members of the Diplomatic Corps and international agencies, Brigadier L C Perera (Retd) who had served in the operational areas spoke of the cooperation and close rapport between Caritas and the military authorities in delivering much needed humanitarian assistance to the people, while Mr N Vethanayahan, District Secretary of Jaffna in his remarks said that as a public servant who had served in several affected Districts, it was a unique experience for him to work with a religious organization to rebuild the lives of the people.