Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - Caritas Sri Lanka celebrates 50 years of activity at the service of the poor, the marginalized and peace. In fact, as Fides learns, the body gave an important contribution to peace and development during the civil war. In about thirty years of conflict, thousands of people were innocent victims of a war. They lost homes and livelihoods, suffered mourning, disability, trauma, forced displacement. "As a result, there were thousands of families destroyed", said Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka to Fides. According to the Director, Caritas Sri Lanka continued its ministry in many ways among those who experienced immense suffering and hardships due to the war. "The war ended in May 2009, leaving a trail of destruction of life and property, and of profound wound of human dignity. Caritas Sri Lanka, supported by its extensive experience in the field of reconciliation and reconstruction, supported by the federation of Caritas Internationalis, successfully implemented numerous programs in order to help these people", he continues.
The Church in the north of the island, where the Tamil rebels were based, has always been "a point of reference for the people in their struggles and difficulties", recalls Fr. Gunatilleke. The Church lost ten priests in the north and east of the island during the war, and many others carry signs of trauma and injury to their bodies. A special mention goes to the director of Caritas of Vanni, Fr. Wasantha Seelan - who suffered the amputation of his leg, due to the injuries suffered.
Many volunteers and in the diocesan centers of Caritas served the people with dedication, facing suffering and dangers. "Caritas Sri Lanka recognizes the face of the suffering Christ in all those people it has taken care of", says Father Gunatilleke.
Thanks to international partners, Caritas has provided material assistance, relief, water and sanitation, psychosocial aid and educational assistance, helping to keep survivors alive and to meet their basic needs.
A special Center for Caritas Humanitarian Assistance was launched at the "Menik Farm" in the district of Vavuniya in order to carry out a screening of war refugees. Thousands of men, women, young people, children and disabled people were housed at the Center, where volunteers made a huge effort to coordinate aid.
This support paved the way for the gradual resettlement of refugees in their places of origin. Subsequently, in the villages where resettlement began, Caritas worked to rebuild infrastructure, houses, and sources of livelihood.
In the dioceses of Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee, temporary or transitional shelters were provided to more than 2,400 families; and permanent homes to 2,500 families
"The scars of the war were very evident on these internally displaced people. That is why Caritas launched several psychosocial interventions to overcome trauma", concludes the Director.
In recent years, Caritas has set up 40 "Peace Villages" in the 9 provinces of the island, places where it continues to work for peace, healing and reconciliation, promoting strong bonds of friendship between the Sri Lankan ethnic participants and Tamils. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 25/9/2018)