CAFOD gravely concerned over disappearance of priest in Sri Lanka

 CAFOD has expressed grave concern for the safety of Father T Nihal Jim Brown who disappeared in the Jaffna region of Sri Lanka three weeks ago. The agency, and its partners in Sri Lanka, have appealed for Fr Jim's safe return and called on the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger rebels to bring an immediate end to the current level of hostilities. The 34-year-old priest of Allapiddy and Manadaithivu parish in Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka had been working with CAFOD's partner, Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, bringing relief to 850 people caught up in a fierce battle between government forces and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in the vicinity of St Philip Neri's church in Allapiddy last month. Fr Jim had secured their safe exodus from Allapiddy to St. Mary's church in neighbouring Kayts and helped arrange the provision of food and water for the displaced. He disappeared on 20th August while trying to arrange for the collection of some of the displaced people's belongings. Fr Damien Fernando, Executive Director of CAFOD's partner, Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, who was in London visiting CAFOD last week said: "We are all alarmed and deeply saddened by the news of the disappearance of Fr Jim. I ask that CAFOD and its supporters join us in praying for his safe return." Fr Damien has met with the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka to appeal for help in finding Fr Jim and information of his whereabouts. He has also appealed to Sri Lanka's Papal Nuncio. Three weeks after Fr Jim's disappearance however, they have yet to receive any news. "The lawlessness that exists in our country must be brought to an immediate end", said Fr Damien. "It is my humble appeal that the international community joins with us in doing everything possible to prevent a further escalation of violence by calling on both the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to stop this unwanted situation and come to the negotiating table." Mary Lucas, Team Leader for CAFOD's Tsunami response in Sri Lanka and India echoed Fr Damien's appeal: "It is absolutely unacceptable that the lives of innocent civilians and humanitarian workers, like Fr Jim, who come to their assistance, are put at risk in this way. We are also concerned that the increasing number of road closures is making it virtually impossible to reach thousands of people in need. "CAFOD welcomes the recent announcement that peace talks will recommence. We urge that this take place promptly and call on all sides to come to the negotiating table with open minds and no conditions."

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