17 September, 2021

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The Death Of A Great Sri Lankan Tamil Bishop – Rayappu Joseph

By Brian Senewiratne

Dr. Brian Senewiratne

The Most Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, Sri Lanka, has died. He was an outstanding soul, the best that Mannar has had.

Born in Delft (an island off Jaffna) in 1940, ordained in 1965 and the of Mannar in 1992.

When the Sri Lankan armed force decided to bomb Mannar in 1999, he urged that civilians be spared. They were not spared. As scores of men, women and children were slaughtered he lodged a strong protest and went to care for the wounded and wipe the tears of those who survived. That was unacceptable to the Sri Lankan government. Anyone who did any humanitarian work to help suffering Tamils was a ‘terrorist’ and, if Tamil, a Tamil Tiger Terrorist – as Bishop Rayappu was called.

Bishop of Mannar, Dr. Rayappu Joseph

With the bombing getting closer to the Madhu Church with its priceless Lady of Madhu statue, some people, I am told they were Tamil Tiger some of whom were Christians, rescued this treasure. They returned it to the church when this outrage was over. Had it not been for them, this holy of holy treasure would have been reduced to dust as was the Jaffna Library in 1981.

On 28 November 1999, the Madhu church was bombed. The Church was extensively damaged and some 40 civilians killed and another 60 injured. Bishop Rayappu raised a voice of protest.

Then came the end of the war, 19 May 2009. Bishop Rayappu and many others waited for the return to normalcy. With nothing but a seriously flawed “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC) appointed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government which Human Rights Watch called a ‘fundamentally flawed commission’, Bishop Rayappu and fellow clergy decided to appear before the Commission.

Their Submission to the LLRC is the only document ever published that gives the actual number unaccounted for – a staggering 146,679.

In February 2012, the US State Department sent two officials to Sri Lanka to inform the Mahinda Rajapaksa government that the US intended to submit a Resolution on Sri Lanka to the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. Bishop Rayappu and other non-politicians immediately sent a letter to them. It is a concise and precise letter, written with a genuine concern for the Tamil  people. It is on the net.

On 1st March 2012, 31 Christian clergy headed by Bishop Rayappu, made a Submission to the UN Human Rights Council. Conspicuously absent were the names of the Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, and of even greater concern, the names of the Catholic Bishops of Jaffna and of Trincomalee-Batticaloa. They clearly feel that there is no problem, and that all is well with their flock. If so, they are either out of touch with reality or have an agenda that is highly questionable. They might not have the courage to speak out. One way or the other it is simply not acceptable.

In striking contrast to the Tamil Bishops in the North-East and the Archbishop of Colombo, who are unable to support an outstanding Tamil bishop in the North-West, support for him commendably came from my community, the Sinhalese, in the South.

Headed by the fine upstanding Sinhalese bishop, Kumara Illangasinghe (Anglican Bishop Emeritus, Kurunegala), Christian clergy, nuns and laity from the south wrote to the UNHRC in support of the letter by northern clergy.

12 March 2012

We the undersigned, endorse the concerns and calls made in the letter of 1st March 2012 to the President and Members of the UN Human Rights Council by 31 Catholic clergy from northern Sri Lanka, including the Bishop of Mannar.

We also express out grave concerns about intimidation and discrediting of the signatories of the initial letter and in particular the Bishop of Mannar…..accusing the Bishop of aspiring to become Cardinal of Tamil Eelam and that he should be arrested and prosecuted.

Signed Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe and others

63 people signed it, 25 priests, 7 nuns and 31 civilians

I can go on but there will not be the time to present it at Bishop Rayappu’s funeral. I must point out that the front cover of my booklet on Bishop Rayappu has about the finest photo of “Our Lady of Madhu”. The resolution is so good that you can photograph this alone and enlarge it several times and it can be an excellent wall- hanging that many Roman Catholics will be glad to have in their homes. The full 61 page booklet is available with me. All you need to do is to send me an email (bsenewiratne@gmail.com) and I will send a pdf version by email and you can print it.

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Latest comments

  • 42
    11

    Yes, Rayappu Joseph should have been appointed Cardinal, not the spineless wonder that Catholics are currently saddled with.

    • 15
      18

      “https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/on-kotiya-bishop-rayappu-joseph/”
      This appeared on 5 March 2014. It was most pertinent.
      The Roman Catholic Church was accused of LTTE bias. Radio Veritas certainly had, but that has to be seen in the context of a deeply divided RC Church since early-mid 1970s.
      I went with an academic colleague to a RC seminary on invitation to address a mixed audience of Catholic clergy. I could sense the alienation.
      Rev. Rayappu had to walk a tightrope, which he did with dignity, but given the schism in the church he was seen as at best ‘soft’ on the LTTE.
      *
      I do not wish to comment on the way Vatican works. Even God is at a loss I fear.
      But appointing Rev. Rayappu was not politically correct.

      • 7
        1

        It was not necessary to appoint Rev. dr. Rayappu the Pope could have picked any one other than some that’s considered racially bias and politically planted.
        Rev. dr. Vincent Fernando would have been a better pick.

    • 6
      9

      That would have set a very bad precedent. Thank god the Vatican did not.

      • 2
        1

        GATAM: Thank god the Vatican did not.
        ===========
        You have double standards. So Sri Lanka is a colony of the Vatican!
        ======

    • 13
      2

      Bishop Rayappu Joseph was a “good shepherd”.
      May he rest in peace.

  • 38
    12

    This Nation has lost a great people servant, the Most Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, Sri Lanka who sacrificed his life for the human rights of the oppressed people.

    • 10
      3

      May his soul rest in peace. Prayers for all be did for the oppressed at personal cost.

  • 34
    11

    Dr. Brian Senewiratne,
    Thank you Sir.
    We join you in paying tribute to the memory of the Most Rev Dr. Rayappu Joseph. He has been a doughty fighter for the underprivileged and oppressed people of Sri Lanka, in particular, the Tamil people and shepherded them with a devoted heart. He has been the guiding spirit in our struggle against racial oppression and injustice. Always in our hearts.

  • 24
    10

    RIP for a sincere Tamil Human Rights activist and a political consultant for Tamils.

  • 15
    40

    Call a spade a spade. Rayappu Joseph was a disgrace to the Catholic Church the way Gnanasara is a disgrace to the Sangha. They both put their race first and their religion second. Both were racists and associated with men of violence and terror.

    • 24
      7

      S
      Be fair.
      Rev. Rayappu has uttered nothing offensive about another community.
      Putting one’s community first happens to many people in public life, as one lives with the identity assigned to one.
      The point, however, is whether one denies justice to others in the process.

    • 19
      4

      Svenson,
      Bishop Rayappu was always a Catholic. Gnanasara was never a Buddhist. The Catholic Church is much better organized than the Buddhist hierarchy. A Gnanasara type would never make it to bishop level. Just ask Fr. Emmanuel. Not that even he is anywhere near Gnanasara.

    • 15
      6

      Ganasara is not worthy to untie the shoe lases of Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph. Rayappu Joseph is no political hack or has not taken any favors from politicians to be in debt.

      He ordained as a priest to serve and serve he did. Did not look for glory or favors.

    • 13
      5

      Proves what a nasty piece of lowly racist shyte you are. No wonder you are working hard on your back to some Viking slave master. The only disgrace to the Catholic Church is the current Cardinal and not Rayappu who like a true disciple of Christ fought for the down trodden Thamizh, irrespective of grave danger to his own life. This is why even the UN listened to his evidence of the war crimes committed on the Thamizh in May 2009

      • 4
        9

        Proves what a nasty piece of lowly racist shyte you are. No wonder you are working hard on your back to some Viking slave master. A good description of a low caste Parayyar who had to sit on the floor of the Yal Devi while his betters sat on the seats.

        • 6
          2

          This comment of yours proves what I stated about you earlier . Most Probably I have more or less hit the mark about what is happening to you in your real life . This is why this vindictive nasty spiteful comeback , that only reveals’ volumes about you and what a spiteful vicious creature you are. Just like your hero Kothapei. I know the truth hurts.

      • 1
        4

        “…what a nasty piece of lowly racist s*** you are”
        Coming from a shatterproof glass house I presume.

        • 4
          1

          Yes was all know that you are a shameless ar-e licker of Chingkalla racists and Thulluka extremists. All their vindictive racist garbage and lies posted is honey to your ears and you will support them to the hilt, as you have some sort of agenda but will constantly nit pick and attack 99% of the Thamizh bloggers here. Joker is all what I can say. Who respects you here.

    • 8
      3

      Svenson- you are comparing the Bishop to a rowdycalled Gnanasara? Where is the comparison? Have you ever seen the Bisop go and beat up people? many of these buddhist clergy are basically thugs.

      • 3
        2

        “Svenson- you are comparing the Bishop to a rowdycalled Gnanasara?”

        With NO or very little education.

        Seven is a F king joker.

    • 4
      6

      That is like saying “He was a supporter of Adolf but he never said anything bad about the Jews”.

      • 2
        2

        S
        Regardless of the unfair analogy, there were people in Germany who did not go along with much of what was done in the name of Aryan supremacy, but thought that Hitler restored German pride and rebuilt the country economically.
        *
        Gnanasara is a unique phenomenon in the modern history of the country, which one hopes will not recur in one’s lifetime. Can you think of a worse creature donning robes?

      • 5
        1

        Svenson, don’t talk off your bloody rockers fool. There were bigger and nastier killers from the LTTE than VP who are bosom buddies of the Rajapaksas today. The only arms dealer the LTTE had is a close friend of the Rajapaksas. So go and tell your lies to your racist friends.

      • 1
        0

        Svenson, are you on some cheap weed?

  • 21
    7

    Rev Dr. Rayappu Joseph was a blessing! The eulogy here by a remarkably rare Sri Lankan humanitarian of our times Dr. Brian Senewiratne is yet another blessing.

  • 24
    8

    Thank you Dr. Brian Seneviratne.
    Bishop Rayappu Joseph was also very much like you, in the sense that he too had consistently stood up for those who were at the receiving end of all those Human Rights violations that had been the normal day to day life of the people,especially in the North.
    What was admirable was that he called a spade a spade.
    The very fact that that the Anglican Bishop Emeritus – Kurunegala Kumara Illangasinghe stood by him shows that he was venerated by Anglican communion as well.
    RIP for an outspoken crusader, who did not shun his duty at the most critical time in our recent History.

  • 10
    3

    Thank you Dr.Brian Seneviretne for the well articulated description of the Eminent Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph of his dedicated services to the people who were suffering at the most critical period in need of urgent help and relief from pain.
    When accusations were levelled against him for his valiant services encountering several intimidations, he stood by his conscience and did all what he could without fear or favour. His remarks to the press at that time of turmoil speaks volumes of his heart’s content;
    ” Being the chosen shepherd of Jesus Christ, I am accountable for the lost sheep “.

    Thank you

  • 5
    8

    End of another Tamil era.

    • 1
      2

      G
      Do you know what an era means?

    • 6
      1

      Thulluka Jaddam aka Pathima what does this end of Thamizh era mean? Why you are now dreaming of an Islamic Wahhabi Caliphate for the fake Arab South Indian low caste Thulluka converts?

    • 3
      1

      Gatam keep dreaming fool. If the Tamils are done, why are you so concerned? Are you so threatened by the Tamils that you need to wake up everyday and cut the Tamils down? For me, if one is negligible, I will not even write about that person.

  • 5
    3

    I take this opportunity to condole with those who knew the late Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph. It is only those who know, know the challenges that any worthy Bishop must face in administering his diocese, even in times of peace and in times of disturbances and war much greater. This is a position that requires much tact and wisdom and in guiding the flock and one can be very easily misunderstood. One must have an enormous capacity to stomach a lot of things. In times of sadness, I would not want to dot the I’s ad cross the t’s of this article nor make comments on some of the commentaries. It is correct to say that some of them have “misbehaved” (to put it very mildly) and were convicted by courts of law in the respective jurisdictions. I am not referring to them. All others are putting their best foot forward to propagate a faith and look after their people.

  • 0
    1

    Did he go to heaven?

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