Towards a happy marriage in complimenting with masculine and feminine differences of a male and a female
A workshop for survivor couples was held at Lewella Fatima retreat House from the 26th to the 29th May 2011. The place was very much conducive for the workshop. There were 20 couples participated in the workshop. The resource persons were a well experienced ME Couple in conducting workshops in the Family Movement in Colombo.
The theme of the workshop is “Towards a happy marriage in complementing with masculine and feminine differences of a male and a female. In keeping with the theme the participants became aware of their own individual differences as well as their own sexual differences and their need to be in complementing with the differences of their own partner. Marriage is a core relationship. Communication is a bridge builder that plays a very important role, the very factor as Asian men and women count as less important.
The input sessions were rich in insights and sharing experiences. The practical exercises became an eye opener for the most of the participants taking partners for granted. The group sharing was very open. Honest and rewarding paving its way for improvement in marital relations hip between the husband and wife.
“I am not the same person who came in as I leave this place today.”
“I feel the only worth in a life of a survivor is being close with his /her partner”
“I am so happy within myself and my dream is beginning to be fulfilled” Were some of the remarks of the participants.
The family counselors trained by the Human rights Office were the group leaders. They facilitated group activities, and conducted meditation sessions. It was a rich experience for them and also had the opportunity to listen to the stories of the survivors and be empathetic with them.
The testimony therapy ceremony of Caspers Paul was held on 31st March 2011 at 3.00 p.m. at St. Mary’s church hall, in Ampitiya, Kandy. Approximately 60 people attended the event including: RCT ( Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims) staff from Denmark Eric, Therese and Louise, Director of HRO Father Nandana, Sister Mabel, survivors who previously had a testimonial therapy, HRO staff and members of the Support Group ( which included counsellors, lawyers, doctors, sisters of the convent, an ex-police officer and volunteers).
The Support Group was created for victims: survivors of torture and rape, families of the disappeared and ex-prisoners. It was formed as a means to identify what should happen next for the victim. The approach is to draw on the knowledge of the group, share ideas and help decide on the victim’s future. Members of the Support Group are driven by a desire to help the helpless. Discussions on victims are held in confidence and individuals are only admitted to the group if members believe them to be suitable. In addition, the Support Group helps to educate its members on human rights as the group explained they now have a better understanding of what rights are. There were also observers at the ceremony who are from an organisation in Colombo and are planning to begin a similar Support Group project.
To start the Testimony Therapy, Caspers Paul and his family and attendees were greeted with ‘Pottu’ at the entrance to the hall. Pottu is a dot of red colour applied to the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows; it means “We are with you”. Participants were also welcomed with a traditional dance using wooden batons performed by 4 girls. At the opening of the ceremony Father Nandana, Mr. Eric from RCT and Caspers Paul with his wife and daughter each lit an oil lamp that stood at the front of the hall as a symbol of freedom.
A moment of silence was held at the start of the ceremony to spare a thought for those who are still in prison across Sri Lanka and the wider world. Miss. Priyangani, a member of staff from HRO, gave a speech welcoming all attendees. She also gave an explanation of the origins of Testimony Therapy and its significance today.
A young girl from Ampitiya Parish performed the traditional Tamil cultural ‘Baratha Dance’ which originated in Maha Bharatah India. After the performance the audience watched a music production ‘Cry from a Prison Cell’ made by the media staff of HRO. The video is based on the real story of a prisoner called Siripala. The song was composed as a reflection of Siripala and the memories of his past life. He wrote the song on his prison cell wall.
Family councilor Miss. Shimalee and Mr. Ranjith recounted Caspers Paul’s trauma testimony. Prior to his arrest under suspicion of being a LTTE terrorist subject, Caspers Paul was happily married and his wife was expecting their first child. After more then two and half years in pretrial detention he was released without charge. During that time he lost his job, investments and his reputation was destroyed. But most importantly, he missed the birth of his daughter. He is still trying to form a bond with her.
Mr. Cecil a family councilor, took to the stage and presented Caspus Paul a copy of his testimony in booklet form. Mr. Cecil then proceeded to give Casers Paul some words of encouragement and wished him good luck for the future.
Four children from Ampitiya parish were invited onstage for a dance performance during the ceremony interval.
Support Group members ( Councilors) Mrs. Padmini and Mr. Shafi gave an account of the pain and suffering felt by Mrs. Mary, Caspers Paul’s wife. After being married only 18 months her husband was arrested. Mrs. Mary found herself two months pregnant and alone. The loneliness she felt was at its strongest during her recovery period after giving birth when women in hospital beds next to her received visits from their husbands. She suffered with abuse from her neighbours who accused her of marrying a LTTE terrorist.
Mrs. Mary’s testimony was then presented to her in booklet form with words of encouragement by Support Group and member of HRO staff Patrick. Father Nandana shared with attendees his vision of the prison ministry and gave a blessing for the survivor family’s future.
A video on prisoner survivor Chithrakumara was shown. He was a father of two sons and a marathon runner who had participated and won medals at both national and international events. The video emphasised the destruction wrought when a family member is accused of a crime and left waiting in remand prison. It echoed the pain of Caspers Paul and his family.
To close the ceremony attendees joined Caspers Paul and his family on stage to wish them good luck in rebuilding their lives.
It is with great joy that we announce the release of Anjella Croos (25) the young English teacher who was imprisoned for almost 02 years at the Raja Veediya remand prison in Kandy as a “Terror” suspect. Prior to her arrest on the 10th August 2009 Anjela was teaching at an Teldeniya, Bopitiya Nawalar estate Tamil school, Her release came after the hard work of her father Anthony Croos along with the Human Rights office staff in Kandy. Anjela suffered from Lupers and was on medication before her arrest, but until the Supreme Court ordered the prison authorities to allow Anjela to consult her doctor, she had to suffer with her illness without proper treatment. It is with gratitude we mention Mr. Palitha Fernando, the additional solicitor general whose intervention made possible for Anjela to see the life out of the walls of the prison. We extend our sincere appreciation to all those who cared for her and joined our campaign to free her. On the instructions of the attorney generals’ department the high court of Judge in Kandy finally pronounced that Anjela is innocent and she walked out of the prison on the 15th March 2011.
Soon after her release Anjela was taken for counseling by Sr Mabel, our trauma counselor and she was prepared mentally and physically for the ceremonial delivery of testimony. The ceremony was held on the 28th May 2011 during the residential workshop of the “survivor” couples. This gave the chance for many of the survivors to attend the ceremony and all the ex-prisoners of the L.T.T.E suspects who had gone through the ceremonial delivery of testimony were present for the occasion. The chief jailor of the fe-male remand prison Nandanie Rajanayake who looked after Anjela was also present at the occasion. With the support group members there were more than 70 participants for the ceremonial delivery of her testimony.
The guests of honor for the occasion were Anjella and her parents. Tamil cultural elements of Alathi, garlanding of white flowers were used to welcome the guests of honor. The ritual Alathi meaning “we welcome you with joy” and where the saffron water is used giving the meaning of purification and cleanliness of the evil within and around and showering blessings on the survivor family. Anjella reached the ceremony hall accompanied by young maiden scattering white flowers on her way and beside her were her parents and all the participants.
Religious observance created an atmosphere preparing the minds and hearts of the chief guests and the participants for this great event with stillness and silence for the forth coming event of delivering the testimony. Audio visual presentation with a religious background invoked prayerful blessings for the occasion.
The lighting of the lamp was done by Anjella, her parents, the chief officer of the remand prison and Fr. Nanadana. The lamp was creatively made to befit the occasion with a cut-out of a young woman coming out of prison bars shattering the barriers.
The reading of the testimony and the encouragement were given by the family counselors of the Human Rights Office, Mr Ranjith & Mrs Shamali. Fr. Nanadana Director of the Human Rights Office shared with the audience his vision and his concerns of prison ministry. The participants were in tears when they greeted and encouraged Anjella and her parents or their courage, and expressed their solidarity and assured them of their continued assistance.
The ceremony came to a close with a tea party organized in honor of the survivors. It was a moment of great joy of meeting one another especially for the survivor group with a feeling of oneness in their life struggle, to resume living again.
Our second Ceremonial delivery of testimonies for the year 2010 took place on the 27th November at Carmel Hill Montessori Hall at 3.00 p.m. The place was befitting for the occasion surrounded by a safe conducive and peaceful environment with healing vibrations. Around 60 participants took part in the celebration. We were happy to have the Vicar General of the Diocese of Kandy Very Rev. Fr. Milroy Fonseka with us for the occasion. There were around 06 priests, religious formators and religious sisters as well. Paul McAdams and Bing of Equitas Canada were the guests of honor. Some of the survivors who already have gone through the process of testimony therapy were also with us. Their presence was an encouragement and added more healing presence for the therapeutic intervention. The members of the support group, the family counselors and many other well wishers were with us for the occasion.
This particular testimony therapy is quite significant for the fact that it is the first time we had a ceremonial delivery of testimonies for the ex-prisoner survivors and their family members. It is also a unique experience for them, being Tamil survivor families living around the vicinity of Kandy town.
The ceremony was highlighted with Tamil cultural rituals and elements. The survivors were welcomed with Pottu, highlighting its meaning “We are with you” and with a Bharatha Natiyam. Like many others, in these two cases too, it was very obvious that they were innocent and living very ordinary lives with their families.
It was the day of the survivor families. The lighting of oil lamp was done by the survivors and their family members. The lamps were created in the form of a prison cell to honor their freedom and liberation.
The climax was when all the participants greeted the survivors and their family members. It was a touching moment, when the former survivors met and greeted the new survivors. It was also a joyful moment. An atmosphere of celebration prevailed, while joyful songs were played. The participants commended the survivors for their steadfastness and courage, and assured them of their continued support. Visuals were then presented on the prison activities of the Human Rights office. The whole group shared refreshments and together with the survivors.
Stepping into another milestone in life, Rita decided to be a bride and hold the hand of Shantha and they pledged their love to each other to be faithful in good times and in bad in sickness and in health.
The marriage was celebrated at Ampitiya St Mary's church at 10.00 a.m.Solemnized by Fr. Nandana Manatunga and assisted by Fr.. Cammilus Janz, Fr. Christ Paul and Fr. Timothy.
The support group came around Rita and did the initial preparatory work for the wedding and organized the liturgy, the reception and all the requirements. It was a joy for every body to see Rita as a bride.Her bridegroom was a Sinhalese Buddhist from Chilaw.
“Holistic wellness” - Rehabilitation Programm for Survivor families of Torture, Prisoners and Disappeared
The caring environment created by the group facilitators aptly befitted to bring out the best in the survivors. The group activities were designed “To heal the traumatic memories and to cherish the enrichment derived in the post traumatic transformation era”. Exercises on Mandala, and Breadth work were made use of during the group activities. The sharing of experiences and the insights gained by the survivors were enriching in the process as to heal, and encourage one another.
Engaging in an activity as a hobby and as an income generating project for one’s livelihood is a satisfaction, relaxation and a means for healing. The participants were taken to Gannoruwa Agricultural Research Institute for an exposure program on “Home gardening”. At the Institute the participants visited vegetable beds and plots on Home Gardening. Provisions were made to guide the participants on practical work of cultivation - different ways of preparing vegetable beds, the different types of plants, and selection of plants for cultivation. Instructions were given to start a home garden making best use of even a small space available or to develop a garden already existing. When there is no available space education was given with examples already making use of at the Agricultural Institute to be creative and even to make use of empty bottles, empty cans we set aside as garbage.
“Knowledge shared brings fulfillment” was experienced by the survivor group when one of the ex-prisoners hardly 50 days after his release from prison was volunteered to teach scientific dressmaking for the survivor the group. His attempt was greatly appreciated by the group.
The survivor group was very much happy and enjoyed the program. Evaluation and observation of the facilitators indicated that the group had become more at ease and free, more expressive and friendlier with group members.
Trauma affects both mind and body. The family members of the disappeared and prisoners suffer traumatic effects in their bodies. Many of them have trauma affected symptoms visible in their bodies resulting in backaches, high blood pressure, headaches, and aches in their bodies. The symptoms of anniversary syndromes cause pain and suffering. Some of them still hope their dear ones would come back.
Understanding the effect of the traumatic mind, we organized a two day program on mental health for our survivors. The doctor’s guild in the medical faculty of the University of Peradeniy in Kandy hospital willingly assisted our cause in releasing the pain of our survivors.
On the first day Government Medical officer (GMO) and a psychiatric presented an overview as what is trauma and the effects of trauma the survivors are experiencing. They helped the participants to understand their responsibility of safeguarding themselves from unnecessary and self imposed worries pains and anxieties. The ways and means of keeping up a healthy body and mind through mindfulness exercises dietary habits were also demonstrated.
The Torture, Rape survivors and their parents, families of the disappeared and of the Prisoners celebrated the Sinhala / Tamil New Year on the 17th April 2010 at the National Seminary grounds Ampitiya Kandy with more than 250 participating at the celebration along with the staff, lawyers and the members of the support group of the Human Rights office.
The Chief Guests of the day's celebration was Mr & Mrs Leo Kurukulaarchchi.
The Religious invokations were made by the chief incumbent of the Dalukgolla Raja Maha Viharaya Ven Athipola Buddarikkitha thero and Rev Fr Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights office Kandy.
There were several traditional New Year games and events organized for the adults and children and the climax of the day's celebration was the selection of the New Year Queens. Nine New Year Queens were selected by a panel of judges according to the age groups. The participants enjoyed the lunch and the Sinhala / Tamil New year food brought by the participants.