Muslims and Hindus join mourners for slain Sri Lankan Catholic priest

By Ecumenical News International
4 Oct 2007

The funeral of a Sri Lankan Roman Catholic priest killed by a mine blast as he was on his way to distribute supplies to displaced people, has attracted more than 5,000 mourners including Hindus and Muslims -write Atto Ankkara.

The 40-year old priest, the Rev. Nicholapillai Pakiaranjit of Mannar diocese, was killed on 26 September while he was driving with food and other items for the displaced people near Kilinochchi, an area that was under the control of Tamil rebels.

"We are all shocked by this tragedy," the Rev Rajathurai Ambalagan, a Methodist pastor in Mannar who attended the Catholic priest's funeral on 29 September told Ecumenical News International in a 2 October telephone interview.

Pakiaranjit often drove between government-controlled areas and those held by the rebel Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam who are fighting for autonomy in the north and east of the island. He provided displaced people with emergency supplies and medicines as coordinator of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mannar.

"It is a heinous crime to attack and kill such peace-loving and unarmed heroes of our society," said Catholic Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, a region control of which is contested by government forces and the Tamil rebels.

The Sri Lankan government blamed rebels for Pakiaranjit's death, while rebel sources said the killing was the result of an attack by a Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit.

Pakiaranjit was among church leaders from Mannar who in August met a team from the World Council of Churches that visited Sri Lanka as part of the Geneva-based WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence programme.

More than 30 aid workers have been killed since November 2005 in renewed violence in the Indian Ocean island that has also claimed more than 5000 lives.

The aid workers killed included two staff members of Caritas Jaffna who died in April 2006 when their vehicle was near an army vehicle that was targeted with landmines by Tamil rebels.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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