Colombo Telegraph

Pope Urged To Raise Killings Of Catholic Priests In Sri Lanka

“While the Sri Lankan President is visiting you to get your blessings, his government is killing and disappearing Catholic priests and threatening the Bishop of Mannar. We urge you to ask for the whereabouts of the abducted Catholic priests and secure a guarantee for the protection of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, says Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran in a letter to the Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI was urged by the Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran to raise abduction and killing of Catholic priests and threats against the most reverend Dr. Rayappu Joseph, the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, with the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rudrakumaran further said that an influential pro-government Buddhist political party JHU has publically called for the arrest of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, for a letter Bishop wrote to the United Nations about the mass killing of Tamils. That letter highlighted the fact that 146,679 Tamils were unaccounted for when Sri Lankan forces attacked the Tamil people in 2009. A representative of this Buddhist political party JHU is a senior Cabinet Minister in the Sri Lankan President’s Cabinet.

Recently, another Cabinet Minister publicly threatened the Bishop and intimidated him for his humanitarian work. There are also reports of Buddhist statues being erected in the Mannar district. Mannar district has the largest Catholic population in Sri Lanka. The historic Madu Church, one of the ancient churches in Asia, is located in Mannar.

In addition, Sri Lankan security forces have assassinated several Catholic priests. Several priests were also abducted and disappeared. There are concerns that some of the priests may still be alive and the government is holding them in secret detentions.

Some of the Catholic Priests who either disappeared or killed are:

• Father Mary Bastian, shot dead.
• Father Eugene John Herbert SJ, abducted & disappeared.
• Father S.Selvaraja, abducted and killed.
• Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jimbrown, abducted & disappeared.
• Father Pakiaranjith, assasinated.
• Father Xavier Karunaratnam, assassinated
• Father Francis Joseph, disappeared since 2009. Rev. Fr. Francis Joseph is a former Rector of St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna and he was seen taken by Sri Lankan Security forces.

“While the Sri Lankan President is visiting you to get your blessings, his government is killing and disappearing Catholic priests and threatening the Bishop of Mannar. We urge you to ask for the whereabouts of the abducted Catholic priests and secure a guarantee for the protection of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph” said Rudrakumaran.

“We also appeal to you to raise war crimes and genocide committed by the Sri Lankan President against the Tamil people in 2009. According to the UN, troops under his command killed over 40,000 Tamils in five months and raped Tamil women” said Rudrakumaran. Tamils were singled out to face these abuses simply and solely on account of their nationality.”

War Crimes and Genocide committed by the Sri Lankan Government:

Tamils have faced repeated mass killings since 1958 and the killings in 2009 prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to appoint a Panel of Experts to report on the scale of killings. According to this UN report over 40,000 Tamils were killed in five months in 2009, due to deliberate and intense carpet bombing of areas designated by the government as “no-fire zones”, areas where Tamils assembled for safety.

Hospitals and food distribution centers were also singled out for bombings. The Sri Lankan Government used cluster bombs and restricted food and medicine for Tamils, resulting in large numbers of people dying from starvation and many of the injured bleeding to death. Independent experts believe that there are elements of these abuses that constitute an act of genocide.

According to the UN, Tamil women were sexually assaulted and raped by Sri Lankan forces. According to a recent UK government report there are over 90,000 Tamil war widows, many facing abuses. There are also reports that detained Tamil women are being used as sex slaves by the Security Forces.

According to Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, 146,679 Tamils were unaccounted for when Sri Lankan forces attacked the Tamil people in 2009. Members of the Sri Lankan Security forces are almost exclusively from the Sinhalese community and the victims are all from the Tamil community.

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