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Letter from the Bishop of Colombo
by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
 
CEYLON 060829-1
August 29, 2006

Ceylon Churchman, July-August 2006 Issue

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] 


My dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Nation: The country is going through a deep crisis at the present time. Open hostilities have broken out between the security forces and the Tamil Tigers. In many parts of the North and East heavy fighting is going on. Once again, thousands of civilians are being displaced from their homes and we have a huge humanitarian crisis on our hands. All this is totally unnecessary. We have an ethnic issue in our country and it can only be resolved politically through civilized negotiations. Given goodwill and trust, this is still possible. Instead, we are reverting to a war strategy that has been repeatedly tried and which has repeatedly failed. We do not appear to be able to learn the lessons of history.

It is necessary therefore that we urge President Rajapakse to steer a change of direction and move the country forward as one just and united nation. We are failing our nation if we ourselves do not also advocate and facilitate a political settlement for a plural Sri Lanka to which all ethnic and religious groups can feel proud to belong.

I request our clergy and our congregations to continue upholding our nation in prayer and to take tangible steps to create social trust and awareness, and to convey to those in authority that our country needs an immediate cease-fire and a political solution to our crisis.

Ordination of Women: In accordance with the decision of the Diocesan Council 2005, we expect some of our women deacons to be ordained to the priesthood on Holy Cross Day 14th September 2006. The Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to send a personal representative to be present on this historic occasion for our Diocese. Some other friends from different parts of the Anglican Communion will also be present. Please remember those to be ordained in your prayers and also pray for Fr Jayasiri Peiris who will conduct the retreat for the ordinands and for Mrs Lathika Ratnanayagam who will preach at the ordination service.

Diocesan Council: This year’s Diocesan Council will be held over a long week-end 6th to 8th October with Evensong on the evening of Thursday 5th. Council Sessions over three non working days was chosen after wide consultation to enable wider representation. Sunday worship in the parishes will be planned by the clergy and led by lay leaders. Hon Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane will be our Chief Guest at the opening session and will address us on ‘Vigilance for the Abused Child’. Fr Norman Jeyachandran will preach at Evensong.

Schools: I was happy to install Mrs Dushyanthi Thuseetharan as the new Principal of Chundikuli Girls’ College. She succeeds Mrs Pushpa Rajaratnam who retired at the end of last year. Mrs Rajaratnam served the school faithfully for over forty years, first on the administrative staff and later on the teaching staff. She guided the school through a difficult period, influenced the formation of the girls, restored the buildings and beautified the campus. We thank her for her services and wish Mrs Thuseetharan every blessing as she takes on her new responsibilities.

Mr S Thanapalan who just retired as Principal of St John’s College, Jaffna passed away a few days ago. He gave almost his whole life to the school he loved having been associated with St John’s for over fifty years as student, teacher and Principal. He also guided the school admirably through turbulent times and ensured that the school maintained high standards of discipline and excellence in all areas. We place on record our deepest appreciation for all that he was to the school, and we pray for Prema and the children in their hour of need. The funeral took place on Thursday 17th August in Chundikuli..

Visits: It is a great joy for Geetha and me to go on pastoral visits to our congregations, where we are always received with love and kindness, and where we see and hear first hand of the work and witness of our congregations. Over the past couple of months I have held confirmation services at St James’ Nallur, St Barnabas’ Avissawela, Christ Church Kotte, the Chapel of the Transfiguration, S Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and St Matthias’ Laxapathiya. Most of these services have been cluster confirmations which included candidates from neighbouring parishes. I led worship in all our parishes in the Vanni, holding services at St Paul’s Kilinochchi, St Mary’s Uduthurai, St Luke’s Tharmapuram and St Matthias’ Thaniyootru, as well as Good Shepherd Niyagama and Holy Trinity Patuwatte. I also visited S John’s College for the opening of the new Library, Staff Room and a Spectator Stand for the playing field.

I also made pastoral visits to Trincomalee, Allaipiddy, Pesalai, Kebittigollawa and Muthur shortly after the communities in those places experienced violence due to the ongoing hostilities. I have reflected, written and spoken publicly on these encounters. Please pray for these communities, for the tens of thousands who suffer and who continue to be displaced from their homes, and for an end to this senseless violence and suffering

I am grateful to our clergy and lay workers and congregations for the very educative and stimulating community discussions we have on the occasion of our visits. I also value very much the dialogue that they set up with the religious and civil society leaders and the wider community. Such contacts and friendships that our clergy and lay workers have and nourish are signs of the inclusive society that Christ calls us to build. Needless to say, these encounters are mutually enriching.

I was also happy to participate in the Thanksgiving Service held at the Jaffna Cathedral to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Episcopal ordination of the Rt Revd Dr Thomas Savundranayagam, Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna. Bishop Savundranayagam is a person of integrity and deep spirituality. He has been a good friend both personally and also of our Diocese. Many of our clergy would remember the fine address at the Clergy Conference he gave us at Karuna Nilayam a few years ago.

With Peace and Blessings.

Yours very sincerely,

+ Duleep