Human Rights Workshop for Religious and Priests was held from the 05th to 08th February 2018 in Bishops House - Badulla with 30 participants with the theme of "Live and Let Live". Bishop Winston Fernando, the Bishop of Badulla & the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops Conference addressed the participants while welcoming them to Badulla and highlighted the Human Rights issues that we are faced with. It was followed by a lively discussion on Right to life.
On the 06th February the participants travelled to Buttala "Subaseth Gedara" where Fr. Michel Rodrigo immersed in the rough and tough life of the poor and down-trodden and finally sacrificed his life 11th November 1987.
Fr. Rohan Silva OMI and Sr. Milburga Fernando helped the participants to understand the life of Fr. Michael at Buttala, the challenges he encountered, the transformation he brought in within the people of Buttala and the theology that emerged with his life and ministry.
There were two close associates of Fr. Michael Mr. Dhambegoda Jinadasa and Ms. Nandawathi present at Subaseth Gedara who described the challenges that Fr. Michael encountered as he worked for the development of the people's community through a lived-experience of dialogue with the villages, and monks of the area while conscientising the people at the grass-root. His entry point was said to be through a health programme and education of school drop-outs.
"Somehow I found Christ. I went to the village and was converted, because he was present. His favour called Grace made me detect his face" Poem of Fr Michel.
The participants reflected on the life & mission of Fr. Michael after returning from the exposure during the Eucharist and on the following day as Fr. Rohan & Sr. Milburga further illustrated the history of Subasth Gedara in relation to the theological reflection of Bishop Leo Nanayakkara.
Ruki Fernando made a powerful presentation on “Justice: What’s it about, opportunities & Challenges”.
He made the participants to explore Justice in the Bible which were shared by the groups and different type of Justice found in the Bible were highlighted. Ex; Distributive justice, Restorative justice, Retributive justice etc
He also explained the Human Rights situation and of the disappeared families in the north and said that 366 days (as of 20th Feb) is a long time for a 24 hour roadside protest. The protestors have been subjected to constant surveillance and while protesting, they had also struggled to take care of their children and engage in livelihoods, and range of other practical problems. Ruki further explained how he has seen protesters getting sick, hungry, cold, sweating, their spirit and physical strength deteriorating but they have not given up he said, they want to know “whether their disappeared children, husbands, are alive or dead”. Finally Ruki invited the participants to join the protesters in solidarity.
The meeting came to a close with the evaluation and it was pointed out that inputs from various resource persons would be useful. The need to have more members from the other dioceses and congregations, with the possibility of having sessions for a few lay persons is to be explored.
The next meeting was fixed for 09th - 12th July 2018 at Fatima Retreat House in Lewella Kandy.