Sri Lanka: Catholics pray for peace during Hindu festival

 While Hindus worshipped their god Shiva in a night-long vigil recently, Catholics used the occasion pray in their churches for civilians trapped in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka.

"We, like Hindus, spent the entire night at the feet of God" to pray for justice and peace, said Father Amirthanathar Francis Xavier Jayasegaram of Jaffna archdiocese's Peace and Justice Commission.

He had urged Catholics on the Jaffna peninsula, where the decades-long civil war is now being fought in a small area, to join with Hindus in their festival, Maha Sivarathri (great night for Lord Shiva), observed on February 23. Catholics were asked to hold overnight prayer vigils in their churches.
The festival is an important religious observance for Hindu devotees on the peninsula. They abstain from food during the festival, and break their fast only the following morning after praying all night long to Shiva, who is known as the "father of all souls."

Many Hindu temples and Catholic churches were open the whole night. Many Catholics were seen with their children, praying for the safety of an estimated 200,000 civilians trapped on a tiny strip of land in northeastern Mullaitivu district.

"Joint prayer does not consider differences of religions, but unity and love," said Father Jayasegaram. "We pray for a change of mind in the government and among Tamil rebels, to stop this war and sincerely seek peace."

He added that Hindus and Catholics here, although from different religions, have the same tradition, culture and language.

Thambimuththu Sivanesan, 51, a Hindu devotee at Kandasmy Kovil temple agreed. "War does not differentiate Hindus and Christians," he said.
At St Anne's Church in Illavalai, parishioner Alfred Jeganathan, 59, said people who came to the vigil prayed for "mental, physical and spiritual strength" for civilians.

According to media reports, over 2,000 civilians were killed and 4,500 injured in intensified fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE have been fighting for a separate Tamil state for two and a half decades.

Mullaitivu is expected to be the final and decisive battlefield between the two sides. Communication and transportation links to this district have been cut.

Source: UCAN

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