The 09th Justice and Peace Workers (JPW) network meeting was held in Fatima Retreat house in Lewella, Kandy Sri Lanka from 03rd – 09th September 2013 organized by the ACPP in Hong Kong in collaboration with the Human Rights office in Kandy Sri Lanka. It included an exposure program in the war affected and highly militarized Northern Province. The meeting was attended by 32 participants from 16 countries in Asia & Pacific.
The theme for the meeting was : “Church and Human Rights: Building Solidarity with the “Joys and Hopes, the Grief and Anguish” of Asian Peoples”.
With the constant reminder of Pope Francis, of the need for social justice, we were convinced that the JPW network meeting could help to strengthen the participants and our network for Justice and Peace at this time of both uncertainty and optimism in the Church. The meeting gave an opportunity for workers of Justice and Peace in the Asia-Pacific region to come together, discuss, share, reflect and come up with a plan for more collaboration and solidarity at the regional level to work and promote Justice and Peace.
The meeting was ceremonially inaugurated by Bishop Vianney Fernando, the Bishop of Kandy and the Chairman of the Commission for Justice, Peace & Human Development of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka. In his inaugural address, the Bishop quoting the text of Exodus, recalled that God head the cries of the people and appointed Moses to deliver the people. The Bishop also said that in the face of discrimination we ought to question the oppressive structures.
Mr. Rukshan Fernando made an introduction to the SriLankan Human Rights situation, which was further elaborated by a visual presentation made by the Human Rights office.
Participants met with families of those who had disappeared in Mannar, families of political prisoners in Vavuniya, the displaced community in Mullikulam and also visited war affected people in Mullativu, where the bloodiest last phase of the war took place.
Before these interactions, the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph addressed the participants and explained the plight of the people more than four years after the end of the war. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos, a leading human rights defender from the Northern province elaborated the sufferings of the people due to militarization and briefed the participants about the significance of the exposure in the light of the recent visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Back in Kandy, participants had a sharing with human rights defenders around Kandy, who are very involved in supporting victims of violations and their families. The participants celebrated Eucharist with the locals at the Padiwatte church, followed by a cultural programme and community meal.
Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando gave inputs on the Vatican II and the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church and participants from 16 countries made presentation on issues that they grapple with as Justice & Peace workers back in their own countries.
After intense discussions, the JPW network the participants agreed to focus on two issues of Militarization & Migration-Human Trafficking as regional priorities. At the same time, participants also agreed to extend solidarity and support to each other in their struggles.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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