Priest Dies on Last Day of Sri Lankan War

Archbishop Warns that Battle Is Not Over

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, MAY 27, 2009 ( One of the seven priests who remained with trapped Sri Lankan refugees through the end of the fighting between government forces and separatists rebels, died on the battle’s last day, and was buried Tuesday.

Father Mariampillai Sarathjeevan, 41, opted to stay with the people trapped in the «safe zone» until the May 18 end of the civil war between Sri Lanka’s military and the rebel Tamil Tigers, despite the danger as the conflict moved into the zone.

He died as the battle ended, struck by a heart attack as he left the war zone with the last refugees, reported a press release on the Web site of the Archdiocese of Colombo.

The Tamil priest, a missionary oblate of Mary Immaculate, was a pastor in Kilinochchi and had been with the civilians since the start of the combat. The report stated that he died on the road due to exhaustion from the months of deprivation, constant air strikes and bombing.

He was taken to a hospital in Vavuniya, where many of the war’s 280,000 refugees have made their temporary home.

During the priest’s funeral in Colombo, a letter by his friend, Father David Manuelpillai, was read in tribute to his memory.

The letter affirmed: «Following the footsteps of the Lord and master, Our Lord Jesus Christ, he said, ‘I will not leave my people.’ These words of determination and commitment from a person with six years of priesthood are exemplary.

«What helped him withstand all the tribulations in his life was his constant communion with God.

«In the final days that led to his demise, he expressed his concern about not being able to celebrate mass as he had to spend a few days in the bunker without food and drink. Ultimately, when he was able to come out of the terrible circumstances, he could not bear to witness the agony of his people and his heart failed.»

Not finished

Archbishop Oswald Gomis, at the conclusion of the conflict, stated, «We are indeed very happy that the war is ended and that the government’s security forces have been able to release all the innocent civilians who were trapped in battle.»

He added, «We could say that we have won the battle, but the war is not ended.»

The prelate explained that this war will end «only on the day that we grow in nationhood realizing that we are all one people in one country with equal right.»

«We have to realize the fact that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community,» he affirmed, and as such «we are now left with the great task of nation-building, forgetting our ethnic, political and religious differences.»

Archbishop Gomis called for a «political formula that will inspire confidence and promote a sense of belonging among the minority groups in the country.»

He continued: «We have to leave the sad and bitter memories of the past three decades and look positively and optimistically towards the future in hope.

«All of us have to share the blame for our division and forgive each other. We should have the humility and wisdom to learn from the sad experiences of that past.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation