The ECUMENICAL CLERGY FORUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (ECFoHR) consists of the representations from the Church of South India, Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Churches in India, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, Salvation Army, Evangelical Churches in India, Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arcot Lutheran Churches, Pentecostal Church Movements and Tamilnadu Theological Seminary. It is a Madurai (Tamilnadu) Based Ecumenical Initiative.
The cry of Archbishop Soundranayagom of Jaffna by narrating the present situation of the civilian victims of the war, in the words “No quarter, no water, no levorotary, no food, No medicine... We lost our homes and houses, lost our lands and nation, We are no human; we are war refugees in our own land” perturbs the Churches and the clergies who are part of ECFoHR- Madurai. So, the ECFoHR-Madurai holds grave concerns over the tortured innocent civilian victims in Sri Lanka and has caused members of the ECFoHR-Madurai to express an outpouring of grief.
Therefore, the ECFoHR – Madurai renounce in the strongest possible terms this callous, vicious carnage against the innocent minority Tamil civil society in Sri Lanka. So the ECFoHR had demonstrated its dissatisfactions in different levels, forums and places.
Phase – 1:
The First Silent Pageant:
As a mark of solidarity with the guiltless civilian victims constantly under attack, in Madurai, on the 16th of February 2009 ECFoHR – Madurai held a silent pageant around 800 full time Christian Ministers including Bishops, Pastors, Priests, Nuns, Seminarians and Novices took part. On 21st February Local Congregational-level Fasting Prayers for Sri Lankan Peace were organised. And on the 22nd February (Sunday morning) onwards Special Peace prayers during the Sunday Holy Masses all over Madurai and neighboring Districts were organised and, it will continue till the war gets off. Sunday evening there was a candlelight rally from UC Hr. School Ground Arasaradi to Gnanaolivupuram Church by the Madurai City Congregation Members.
Phase - 2:
After a long and concerned discussion it was decided to hold a Silent Pageant along with a fast day on 2 April 2009. Since this event falls during Lent season it is suggested to have a theme as “Walk and Fast unto Justice”. Especially, this event is titled as ‘A Lenten March and Solidarity Fast’ based on Isaiah 58: 6-7.
The Second Silent Pageant and Solidarity Fast:
On April 2, 2000 Pastors, Priests, Presbyters, Nuns, Novices, Theology Students and Bishops from the Roman Catholic Church, Church of South India, Evangelical Churches in India, Salvation Army, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arcot Lutheran Church, Arcot Lutheran Church, India Evangelical Lutheran Church and other Independent and Pentecostal Churches staged the silent pageant and Solidarity March. In this solidarity event Faculty and Students from Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Sacred Heart Seminary and Arul Kadal Seminary Faculty and Students, The Arasaradi Human Rights Forum, Student Christian Movement, AICUF, United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI) and National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) participated.
At 10.00 a.m, the Lenten silent pageant was flagged off by the Rev. Sr. Maria Philo, Asst. Mother General of Bon Secours Congregation, with a word of Prayer by Rev. Dr. Wilson Mohan Raj, (TELC). This Pageant held between Munroe Statue and Chepauk Cricket Stadium, the distance was about 2.5 kilometers. Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam, CSI Bishop in Chennai inaugurated the Solidarity fast. In his inaugural address he brought a historical survey of the issue and justified the reasons for the Tamils’ struggle. Also, he proposed that Separate Tamil Eelam will be the only solution to solve the Sri Lankan issue.
Prof. Marx and Mrs. Saraswathi were the guest speakers. Both of them had raised several logical and practical questions on the issue and stated that the war is a violation of Human Rights. And they challenged the Central and State Governments on the issues by saying all the political parties have made Sri Lankan Issue as a vote pulling issue it is shame and the political parties live on the bloodshed of innocent Sri Lankan Tamils and live here in India. We have to stop this non-sense.
Rev. Fr. Pary, Prof. D. Jawahar, Rev. Sr. Maria Philo, and Rev. Sr. Madona also expressed their solidarities by their speeches.
Rt. Rev. Dr. William Moses Bishop Emeritus and former Moderator of the Church of South India participated in the Pageant and fast. In his solidarity speech bishop shared his experience in Sri Lankan peace negotiation and he assured his prayers for Peace in Sri Lanka.
Rev. Dr. Augustine Jayakumar, Executive Secretary, United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI), represented the Indian Lutheran Churches and assured that the UELCI is in solidarity with the tormented civilians in Sri Lanka and would be with all the Peace initiatives by the ECFoHR.
Mr. Pazha Nedumaran, Coordinator, Ilangai Thamizhar Pathukappu Peravai (Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement) gave his concluding address by appreciating the Churches position to come out to streets and fight for the civil rights of the Tamil Community in Sri Lanka and for Peace. He welcomed the Churches’ proposal of joining hand with the secular movements to fight against the injustices in the society at large.
The Most Rev. Dr. Chinnappa, Arch Bishop of Chennai Catholic Arch Diocese graced the solidarity fast by winding up the fast by giving fruit juice to the Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam CSI Bishop in Chennai who was also in the fast till the end. In his concluding words Bishop Chinnappa made a remark that only in-unity and by unity we could cast out the injustice in this world so let us be together in brining peace in Sri Lanka.
Rev. Dr. P. Mohan Larbeer, General Convener ECFoHR Madurai said in his concluding address that, the Churches are on road today to express our solidarity with week, meek, voiceless innocent war victims in Sri Lanka and this is the time for us to join hands with the secular movements who also work on the cause. The struggle for peace does not end here it will go on till we reach the state of Peace in Sri Lanka and declared that during the last week of April before Election there will be a Dharna and Candle light Pageant in New Delhi.
Rev. Fr. Jebamalai Raja, SJ, campiered solidarity fast events and the Solidarity fast came to an end with a vote of thanks by R. Christopher Rajkumar to all those who served to make this ‘Lenten March and Solidarity Fast’ a meaningful event.
Slogans were raised to express our solidarity to the struggling Tamil people in Srilanka and our demands to Central and State governments.
Gaining International Support:
While we held the solidarity fast to gain the International Support on the issue Rev. Dr. P. Mohan Larbeer, Rev. Fr. Benadict Barnabas and Rev. Paul Francis went to British Embassy, United States of America Consulates met the consulate heads to submit the following memorandum on prior appointments. The German Embassy and Malaysian Embassy had expressed their solidarity by letters which have a mention of their countries involvement in bringing peace in Sri Lanka
Memorandum submitted to the Consulates
We the ECFoHR calls upon the International Community to listen and to act upon the following:
We plead with the International Communities to join hands to CONTINUE THE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE to the trapped civilian victims with medicine, food, shelter and other supplies necessary to reduce the terrible trauma that they experience every day.
We plead you to join hand with the Indian Government in order to strengthen and to increase the supply of the medical and humanitarian help to the victims and to serve them directly.
We urge the International Communities to involve in RELIEF, REHABILATATION and RE-CONSTRUCTION of the people in the affected area.
We propose you to initiate an independent and INTERNATIONAL FACT FINDING TEAM or a SAARC TEAM to visit the affected areas to asses the real damage and to MONITER the Humanitarian services in the war zone.
We strongly believe that this issue will not be solved by any military means but only by political means through dialogue between the parties. So we recommend you as an International Community to pursue this course of action, to INITIATE the possibilities of bringing PEACE and to MEDIATE the NEGOTIATIONS either by you or with the United Nations Organisation.
And also the ECFoHR demands your country to play the ‘peace-maker’ role by initiating and mediating the peace talks to grant political freedom to the Sri Lankan Tamils and to ensure they retain that freedom.
Phase – 3:
ECFoHR – Madurai proposes to take up the issue in the next level. So it is decided to hold a dharna, Candle Light March and to meet the President of India, Prime Minister of India, the External Affairs Minster and the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner on the 29th April 2009 in New Delhi.
ECFoHR hopes, believes and envisions PEACE in Sri Lanka soon and our ecumenical journey would continue for ever as a voicing agent of God to bring ‘Peace on Earth’. Our Prayer would be ‘Thy Reign Come’.
R. Christopher Rajkumar
Secretary, Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation – NCCI
Jebamalai Raja SJ
Rector, St. Mary’s Jesuit House Madurai
Co-ordinators, ECFoHR- Madurai
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