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Oblates in Jaffna and Colombo (Sri Lanka) stand in solidarity with Families of the Disappeared and on May 30th, the Oblate Fathers of both Colombo and Jaffna Provinces joined in a street protest conducted by the Families of the Disappeared people during and after the war. The public protest was launched after 100 days of Day & Night protest in Kilunochchi town. “The campaign is successful in many aspects,” said Fr. Ashok Stephen, OMI, “including participation, clear articulation of demands as well as the people’s determination to continue the struggle.”
Eleven Oblate fathers of both provinces, Jaffna and Colombo, joined in the protest and were the largest religious group present there.
The staff of the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) together with hundreds of people, including priests, environmental activists, civil organizations and fishermen, protested in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on Monday (April 4th ), demanding the government to halt a $1.5 billion Chinese-funded Port City Project.
Sri Lanka Priests and Religious to UN Body: Adopt International Mechanisms to Address Human Rights Crimes October 6th, 2015
One hundred seventy priests and Religious from North and East of Sri Lanka recently urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt international mechanisms that address the gravity of crimes committed, especially committed in the last phase of war in Sri Lanka. Writing to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, priests and Religious said; “Since the end of the armed conflict many of the structural causes of the conflict remain intact.” The letter was endorsed and signed by several Missionary Oblates and other Catholic priests and religious.
o Read the letter here: Sri Lanka Priests and Religious to UN body.
Meanwhile Church and human rights activists in Sri Lanka have applauded a resolution the UN Human Rights Council (forty-seven member nation body) approved in Geneva on October 1, that would allow foreign judges and prosecutors to help Sri Lanka try people accused of serious crimes during and after the civil war. The U.N resolution calls for punishment of those responsible for war crimes. It also paves the way for accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Votes for End to Nepotism and Corruption January 12th, 2015
In a surprising electoral upset, Sri Lankans voted in Opposition Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, a former Health minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the man responsible for the crushing defeat of the Tamil Tigers, conceded defeat on Friday. The Tamil and Muslim voting appears to have decided the outcome of the election, as the Sinhalese vote was split.
A new Administration holds out the possibility for some change, although how much remains to be seen. The new President was acting Defense Minister at the end of the civil war in June 2009, and like Rajapaksa, rejects the UN investigation into war crimes allegations, and has pledged that senior commanders accused of such war crimes will not face legal action. He also reportedly has no plans to reduce the large military presence in northern (Tamil) Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the issue of corruption will be addressed (the Rajapaksa family was in many positions of authority at the national and local levels of government, and controlled both the Defense Ministry and the Development Ministry.). The increasing consolidation of power in the Presidency will also be reversed. President Sirisena pledged, during the campaign, to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days of being elected, repeal the controversial 18th amendment, re-instate the 17th amendment and appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe as prime minister. The constitutional changes will be important. Already, the new President has called for Parliamentary elections to be held in three months.
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The Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rev. R. Canagasabey, today rejected as false, allegations against one of his priests – human rights defender Fr. M. Sathivel – by a mob led by right-wing Buddhist monks (Bodu Bala Sena) which invaded the Oblate-run Center for Society and Religion on August 4. Issuing a statement, the Bishop said,”I do not in any way condone such action against a peaceful gathering and as his Bishop affirm that Rev. M. Sathivel is a long standing and a credible Priest of the Diocese of Colombo with over 25 years of parish and community work with a justice and peace consciousness.”
Read the full statement as a PDF: Bishop of Colombo statement rejecting false allegations against Fr Sathivel-18Aug2014
Learn more about the Centre for Society and Religion, Sri Lanka
Angry Mob Invades Assembly of Families of Disappeared at Oblate Center in Sri Lanka August 12th, 2014
On the afternoon of August 4th, a group of Buddhist monks with a large number of civilians and media personnel forced their way into a meeting being hosted by the Oblate Centre for Peace and Justice in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The mob was intent on disrupting a meeting of families of the disappeared that were meeting in the place to tell their stories to an assembled group of priests, nuns, human rights activists, and representatives of civil society organizations as well as of diplomatic missions. The aim of the meeting was to pinpoint methods and strategies for helping the families of missing people locate their loved ones. The center, which is currently led by Oblate priest, Fr. Ashok Stephen, has been helping civil war victims for years.
Despite repeated requests from the organizers and the diplomatic corp present, the police failed to disperse the mob, but suggested rather that the meeting be disbanded and representatives from both parties attend an inquiry at the police station. Fr. Ashok Stephen, OMI, Director of the CPJ, filed a complaint of criminal trespass against the one Buddhist whose name he was able to determine, but does not think anything will come of it. The families present, which included children, were frightened but the mob, which shouted abuse and took photographs of those present.
Statements on the incident from Fr Ashok Stephen, OMI and Fr Rohan Silva, OMI are available on the website of the Colombo Province.
The Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Sri Lanka have also issued a statement condemning the incident. (Download PDF here)