Sri Lankan Church condemns priestly persecution and government repression

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Sri Lanka is facing debt, supply shortages and political repression. Due to inflation and the termination of fertilizer imports, rice production has significantly decrased and gasoline is almost impossible to find.

Protests led to the resignation and exile of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family. But many of the protest leaders are now wanted for arrest.

Fr. Jeevantha Peiris is one of them. He is a priest hiding in a secret location while the government pursues him. In Rome, one of his colleagues tells his story.

General Service of Oblate Communications
After the protests, the government is trying to arrest most of the leaders who have been at the forefront of the recent protests against the president and the former government. So, he has been one of these leaders who really animated the leaders of the group so now they're trying to arrest him. There's an open warrant to arrest him.

Fr. Shanil Jayawardena of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate believes that the government is taking advantage of an emergency law to silence dissatisfied citizens. 

General Service of Oblate Communications
So, when the emergency law is in place, the police can arrest people because it's something beyond the normal law of the country. So, under the pretext of that, with the help of this emergency law, they have arrested with very lame excuses. Especially, the recent was to shut the mouth of this protesters because the government is afraid that these leaders will come together.

The arrests and persecution of leaders such as Fr. Peiris have prompted the Sri Lankan Church to condemn the situation.

21 religious congregations with more than 1,600 priests and religious have signed a document showing their concern about the government and they are closely following the events. 

The persecution is not only against Catholics: two Buddhist monks have also received arrest warrants. None of the protest leaders are allowed to leave the country and their passports have been revoked. 

General Service of Oblate Communications
Most of these protesters are not from political parties and that's what it makes it more interesting, because most of them are social rights defenders. They're speaking for the people, for the poor and for those people who are affected by the economic difficulties that the country is facing.

The Oblate is critical of the government's decisions that have led to this situation.

General Service of Oblate Communications
The main reason was the misamanagement of money and wrong policies—wrong economic policies—and also corruption above all that had been happening over the years. Politicians who robbed the poeple's money—with all that I think we have come to this level right now.

Fr. Jayawardena says Fr. Peiris is grateful for the Pope's concern. Pope Francis has sent several messages that Sri Lankans continue to follow, regardless of their religious convictions. He also recently donated 100,000 euros for the victims of the 2019 terrorist attack. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith thanked him personally.



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