SRI LANKA (ACN News): CATHOLIC charity Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid to Sri Lanka after an urgent appeal for help from a bishop acting on behalf of people desperate for clean water, food and clothing.
More than 250,000 people pouring out of the areas worst affected by the fighting in the north of the country are in critical need of basic help, with the Government struggling to keep pace with the demand for shelter and medical care.
In response, ACN, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, has agreed an immediate aid package of $51,000 for distribution by Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna.
In line with the charity’s pastoral priorities, ACN has signalled its commitment to provide long-term help enabling the Church to recover from the damage and destruction of the past months, with the bishop reporting that 18 parishes were “totally kaput”.
The payment, agreed to will provide milk powder; bread rolls and biscuits; up to 10,000 bottles of water; soap, towels and disinfectant; and baby clothes.
Underlining the gravity of “such a huge human tragedy”, the bishop told ACN that the aid would be handed out by priests already at work in the displacement camps providing basic help, celebrating Mass and visiting the sick.
Bishop Savundaranayagam stressed his “sadness” at the scale of the human exodus from so-called safe zones in the Tamil area in and around Mullaitivu district through to Vavuniya, where the Government was erecting shelters – 60-70,000 people to a camp.
Bishop Savundaranayagam – who back in January carried out an ACN-funded undercover emergency relief operation in the region – has written to the charity saying; “Thank you so much for your concern and readiness to help.”
The bishop underlined the high number of Catholics among the displaced, saying that Mullaitivu, their home district, has a high concentration of faithful.
In an earlier message, the bishop paid tribute to the priests, saying they were determined to stay with the displaced people “till the last”, highlighting the case of Fr Manuelpillai T. Sarathjeevan, 41, who died from exhaustion.
Asia News reported that Fr Sarathjeevan stayed with his people in the No Fire Zone till the end. He died on May 18, the last day of fighting between the military and the Tamil Tigers, struck by a heart attack as he left the combat zone with the last refugees after it had come under complete army control.