Seeking Where abouts of Catholic Priest Father Francis Joseph-Campaign for Tamil Justice
WHERE IS FATHER FRANCIS JOSEPH?
In early 2013, the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna wrote a letter to the President and members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and pointed out that the Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Dr R. Joseph, has stated that 146,000 Tamil people were missing and still unaccounted for.
One of the missing people was a Catholic priest, Father Francis Joseph. He was last seen on May 18, 2009, being taken by the Sri Lankan Army. This was witnessed by at least one Australian Citizen, who has borne testimony to this.
Over the past more than four years, several attempts have been made by leaders of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka, particularly the priests and bishops to seek advice from the Sri Lankan security agencies about the whereabouts of Father Francis Joseph. No Information has been forthcoming.
Father Francis Joseph was a humble priest, serving his people and protecting the vulnerable from violence and danger. He was a true servant of God, serving the destitute, the helpless and voiceless and answering the call of the gospel.
It is time that the kind and just people all over the world, stand up, demand answers from the Sri Lankan Government about the whereabouts of Father Francis Joseph.
We are conducting a signature campaign, aimed at 10,000 signatures. This campaign is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your concern for the protection of human rights. Such is sacred in any one’s language. We are calling on the Sri Lankan Government to provide information on the whereabouts of Father Francis Joseph since he was “taken away” by the Sri Lankan Army in May 2009.
WHO IS FATHER FRANCIS JOSEPH?
We cannot easily forget the humanitarian services of Father Francis Joseph to the Tamil community in the North East of Sri Lanka. He is now considered as one among thousands who disappeared during the Tamil Genocide in May 2009.
People of the North East of Sri Lanka knew him only too well – his untiring services to the social raising of his people through education. After his retirement as Principal of St Patrick’s College in Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka, he dedicated the rest of his life to the sacred mission of educating the people of North East of Sri Lanka. When over five hundred thousand Jaffna Tamils displaced to Vanni in 1995, Father Francis Joseph became a full time servant of Tamil people in Vanni.
He was appointed as the President of the Tamil Eelam Educational Development Council in 2002. With his natural flair for the english language , his long experience as a teacher of English and an efficient Principal of an illustrious college it is no surprise Father Francis Joseph proved to be an efficient administrator and a good teacher.
In 2004 after the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Father Joseph got himself fully immersed in establishing a college for English education, thus realising his long cherished dream.
The college started functioning successfully from Kilinochchi in 2004 ushering in a new awakening among the Tamil youth. With his duty as teacher and administrator Father Joseph personally imparted English knowledge to Tamil leaders at the college. In spite of such a busy schedule as teacher and administrator Father Joseph did not forget his religious duty as a priest at the Kilinochchi Parish.
He also actively spoke for the freedom of his people. This had a huge impact on his health. When his health was seriously affected and needing urgent medical treatment, he refused to leave Vanni. He wanted to be with the people. He thought he may not be able to return to Vanni and continue his work if he went to Jaffna for medical treatment. The Catholic Church tried to convince him but his dedication and determination to stay in Vanni was so strong that he refused take their advice.
During the final stages of the war in early 2009, he had to move from place to place with the people. When Tamil leaders decided to send him by boat to safety, he adamantly refused saying he wanted to stay with them. He shared those gory days at the age of seventy five, helping and staying with disabled members of the Navam Institute in a bunker, attending to their needs.
On 18th of May 2009 Father Francis Joseph was with his people and Tamil leaders as the Sri Lankan Army closed in. When some of the Tamil leaders decided to surrender to the army Father Joseph took the firm decision to lead them as he thought his language skills would be of help to them. Father Joseph and other Tamil leaders were loaded on a truck and taken away by the army. It was witnessed by thousands of people and among them was one Australian citizen.
Four years on, no one has returned to tell us the story of what happened to Father Francis Joseph. Father Francis Joseph who had spent every minute of his life for his people , is now a name in the list of those who had disappeared in May 2009.
Pope Urged To Raise Killings Of Catholic Priests In Sri Lanka
“While the Sri Lankan President is visiting you to get your blessings, his government is killing and disappearing Catholic priests and threatening the Bishop of Mannar. We urge you to ask for the whereabouts of the abducted Catholic priests and secure a guarantee for the protection of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, says Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran in a letter to the Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI was urged by the Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran to raise abduction and killing of Catholic priests and threats against the most reverend Dr. Rayappu Joseph, the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, with the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Rudrakumaran further said that an influential pro-government Buddhist political party JHU has publically called for the arrest of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, for a letter Bishop wrote to the United Nations about the mass killing of Tamils. That letter highlighted the fact that 146,679 Tamils were unaccounted for when Sri Lankan forces attacked the Tamil people in 2009. A representative of this Buddhist political party JHU is a senior Cabinet Minister in the Sri Lankan President’s Cabinet.
Recently, another Cabinet Minister publicly threatened the Bishop and intimidated him for his humanitarian work. There are also reports of Buddhist statues being erected in the Mannar district. Mannar district has the largest Catholic population in Sri Lanka. The historic Madu Church, one of the ancient churches in Asia, is located in Mannar.
In addition, Sri Lankan security forces have assassinated several Catholic priests. Several priests were also abducted and disappeared. There are concerns that some of the priests may still be alive and the government is holding them in secret detentions.
Some of the Catholic Priests who either disappeared or killed are:
• Father Mary Bastian, shot dead.
• Father Eugene John Herbert SJ, abducted & disappeared.
• Father S.Selvaraja, abducted and killed.
• Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jimbrown, abducted & disappeared.
• Father Pakiaranjith, assasinated.
• Father Xavier Karunaratnam, assassinated
• Father Francis Joseph, disappeared since 2009. Rev. Fr. Francis Joseph is a former Rector of St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna and he was seen taken by Sri Lankan Security forces.
“While the Sri Lankan President is visiting you to get your blessings, his government is killing and disappearing Catholic priests and threatening the Bishop of Mannar. We urge you to ask for the whereabouts of the abducted Catholic priests and secure a guarantee for the protection of Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph” said Rudrakumaran.
“We also appeal to you to raise war crimes and genocide committed by the Sri Lankan President against the Tamil people in 2009. According to the UN, troops under his command killed over 40,000 Tamils in five months and raped Tamil women” said Rudrakumaran. Tamils were singled out to face these abuses simply and solely on account of their nationality.”
War Crimes and Genocide committed by the Sri Lankan Government:
Tamils have faced repeated mass killings since 1958 and the killings in 2009 prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to appoint a Panel of Experts to report on the scale of killings. According to this UN report over 40,000 Tamils were killed in five months in 2009, due to deliberate and intense carpet bombing of areas designated by the government as “no-fire zones”, areas where Tamils assembled for safety.
Hospitals and food distribution centers were also singled out for bombings. The Sri Lankan Government used cluster bombs and restricted food and medicine for Tamils, resulting in large numbers of people dying from starvation and many of the injured bleeding to death. Independent experts believe that there are elements of these abuses that constitute an act of genocide.
According to the UN, Tamil women were sexually assaulted and raped by Sri Lankan forces. According to a recent UK government report there are over 90,000 Tamil war widows, many facing abuses. There are also reports that detained Tamil women are being used as sex slaves by the Security Forces.
According to Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, 146,679 Tamils were unaccounted for when Sri Lankan forces attacked the Tamil people in 2009. Members of the Sri Lankan Security forces are almost exclusively from the Sinhalese community and the victims are all from the Tamil community.
As Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the island from Tuesday to Thursday, NPC Councillor Ms Ananthy Sasitharan, urged him to grasp the underlying factor of the conflict in the island, i.e. genocide and sought his help in getting answers from the government in Colombo and the international players, including the UN, the Co-chairs and India. “I hope Your Holiness is aware that there is an ideology behind the genocidal process,” she wrote in a letter addressed to the Pope on Saturday. She was citing a key case of Fr Francis Joseph towards the end of the war in perceiving the dimensions and said: “The Catholic Church, having witnesses among the people, has a moral duty to safeguard the people from the protracted crime of genocide.” Full story >>
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