ASIA/SRI LANKA - Reconciliation and friendship between Sinhalese and Tamil families: the Church's commitment

Friday, 26 October 2018 reconciliation   wars   caritas   peace   human rights   human dignity   priests  

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) – Need to promote mutual knowledge, exchange and hospitality between Sinhalese and Tamil families. This is the intention of a special program of social reconciliation called "Live-in", coordinated by Sister Dulcie Peiris, a Catholic religious who is dedicated to healing the wounds and promoting the union between Tamil and Sinhalese in Sri Lankan society, in the postwar scenario.
As reported to Fides, within the framework of this program, the Sinhalese (the majority community) host a Tamil family from the northern districts, affected by the war, in their homes for a few days. Likewise, the Tamils host the Sinhalese in their homes, taking care of them. Such initiatives started in 2009 by the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka.
The war has in fact left a trail of destruction in people's lives and deep wounds of human dignity. Caritas Sri Lanka has put in place its extensive experience in the field of reconciliation and reconstruction, supported by the federation of Caritas Internationalis, carrying out numerous programs to help families affected by the war.
In the north of the island, where the Tamil rebels settled, the so-called "tigers", the Catholic Church has always been a point of reference for people in their struggles and difficulties. The community lost ten priests during the war, and many others show signs of trauma and injury on their bodies. The director of Caritas of Vanni, Fr. Wasantha Seelan suffered the amputation of a leg, due to the injuries. Many volunteers in the diocesan centers of Caritas served the people with dedication, facing suffering and danger.
Initiated by Caritas Sri Lanka, the program of social and cultural reconciliation has gained momentum and is coordinated by the sisters: "At the beginning we were reluctant to joining this program, but now we are able to relate to each other as friends", says to Fides Srimathi Wijesingha, 38, a Sinhalese elementary school teacher who hosted a Tamil family.
"Among the various programs launched by the Catholic Church for the healing of wounds and the overcoming of the cultural social distance between the Sinhalese and Tamil, this program is the most effective", says Sister Peiris, a 57 year old religious who has coordinated this program since 2011.
"Initially, there were many fears, resistance and prejudices between the two communities, but since they started to interact more closely, the gap is slowly being reduced", she says.
The civil war, which began in 1983, has caused over 100,000 deaths, thousands of displaced people. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan army defeated the Tamil Tigers on May 18, 2009. According to the UN, the war killed at least 40,000 civilians in the last weeks of conflict. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 26/10/2018)