With COVID 19 health restrictions and guidelines, the workshop of the Religious and Priests for Human Rights (RPHR) was held at Fatima Retreat House, Lewella Kandy from the 14th - 17th February 2022 with 28 participants from different parts of the country.
The participants had an exposure to the Katugastota - Thekkawatte garbage dumpsite and dolomite mining site at Digana on 15th February. Following the exposure there were discussions in small groups and several recommendations were made by the participants in protecting the environment especially with regard to the disposal of garbage.
With the exposure, the participants had a firsthand experience and therefore were able to reflect on the massive destruction of the environmental due to the negligence of the people and short-term political ambitions of politicians. Rev. Fr. Sagara Jayamanne SSS made a scriptural in put on the theme “Prophetic call” while the present situation of the North and the East was highlighted by Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos. The unexpected critical economic crisis in the country and the causes in relation to women were discussed with the facilitation of Mrs. Vishaka Dharmadasa. Bishop Kumara Illagasinghe explained the challenges faced by the plantation people followed by a lively discussion. In spite of various challenges and obstacles, possible initiatives within a limited democratic space were pointed out by Mr. Rukshan Fernando and some legal initiatives on the amendment to the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism ACT) were introduced by Mr. Suren D. Perera AAL for which the participants consented to become petitioners. Therefore, the petition to be filed in the Supreme Court was explained.
The Director of CSR Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva OMI facilitated a discussion about the aftermath of the Easter Sunday Attack and requested the participants to study the recommendations made by the commission and invited the participants to work in solidarity to bring about Justice to the victims of Easter Sunday Attack. The 03-day workshop was concluded with a thanksgiving mass on the 17th February.
Focusing on the theme "When Women lead, others follow” the Human Rights Office Kandy organized the International Women's day on the 12th March 2022 at the Parish hall of Fatima Shrine Padiwatte Kandy Sri Lanka.
More than 100 participants from the families of the disappeared, families of the prisoners, the survivors of torture, rape, sexual and gender based violence and their families, the members of the support group and the staff of the Human Rights Office participated in the day’s programme.
The guest speaker Ms. Geeva Nilmalgoda, Attorney at Law highlighted the theme and provided examples how women lead not only the families, but in many other spheres taking up responsibilities with determination. "Women as leaders have the capacity to lead others while they suffer silently but still have the courage to endure challenges”.
The women who participated lit lamps in honour of all the suffering women, mothers who give new life to this earth, widows, daughters, child victims of sexual abuses, unborn babies, women labourers, women displaced by the war.
Fr. Nandana Manatunga the Director of the HRO explained the purpose of gathering women to celebrate the Women’s day with the theme "When Women lead, others follow". He said it is because the women sustain initiatives until completion that there are so many women’s organizations and therefore he invited the participants who were present to face the challenges that are before them due to the economic downfall of the country. The participants were then divided in to groups and were asked to discuss their own experiences and the initiatives that they have taken to meet the unexpected challenges with the economic crisis, which resulted a severe inflation experienced during the last few weeks and which may continue in the coming months.
The Human Rights Office prepared a meaningful way of the cross for the season of lent in 2022 as in previous years with visuals, based on the suffering and death of Christ comparing to the sufferings of the people in Sri Lanka and also in many other countries specially of the suffering people of Ukraine. The visual way of the cross, helped the faithful to reflect on our own lives, the crosses that we carry and the society in which we live and into enter in to the paschal mystery of Christ. The programmes were held in 30 different venues: in parishes, seminaries, houses of formation and in schools.
Along with the way of the cross, based on Human Dignity Legal clinics were also held in some parishes with awareness programmes on Torture, Domestic violence, gender-based violence, Right to Information Act and Child Rights.
The Human Rights Office joined the suffering people to protest against the present regime. Silent peaceful protests were held in Kandy on the 30th March and in Matale on the 02nd of April 2022. Several priests, nuns, professionals and civil society activists came together to express their dissatisfaction towards the political leaders who have shown a deaf ear to the cries of the people who are suffering without the most basics, such as power, fuel, gas, milk foods and even other essentials items. Although people wanted to make their voices and cries heard, they were afraid of the ruthless militarized regime. However, with our initiative to make our voices heard in public, the ordinary citizens, religious, professionals, university students have started protesting in public and so much so that the President declared a state of emergency and imposed curfew on the 03rd April 2022 fearing the public outrage against him and his cabinet of ministers.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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