“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – (Matthew 11:28)
The coordinated bomb attacks on the 21st of April (Easter Sunday) 2019, left the entire Nation grief stricken and in shock. A Nation that had just come out of a 30 year civil war and was enjoying “PEACE” and “LIFE BACK TO NORMAL”, was propelled back to live once again in fear and distrust. Another communal unrest was on the brink of breaking out, when His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo gave the Shepherded leadership not only to the Catholic Community but also to the entire nation.
Upholding and esteeming the HUMAN PERSON in its whole being to be a rational, social and a spiritual being, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, immediately appointed a special Committee for the Relief, Recovery and Rehabilitation work for the Families affected by the Easter Sunday Tragedy under the guidance of the two Auxiliary Bishops. As such, after identifying the needs of the affected families, they were categorized into the following three aspects, such as:
Thereafter, Psycho-Social and Pastoral programmes were set up to cater the needs of these affected families. To support the families including the children and the communities directly affected by the coordinated bomb attacks, Seth Sarana built a strong coalition with Government, Private Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The three interwoven programmes identified as Pastoral care, Psychological Care and Social Care to reach the full potential of victimized children, families and their communities.
Psycho-Social programme is part of Seth Sarana’s long term development plan under the three Goals of the three ‘Aspects.’ They are;
1. Enhancement of Spiritual well being of the affected families by ensuring their growth through religious activities.
2. The God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy, Loving and without blemish” (Ephesians 1,3-)
3. An integrated family with coexistence.
Under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Prasad Harshana the Faith Animation Team of the Archdiocese of Colombo – designed a spiritual plan to enlighten and relieve the affected families of the fear they face in their lives.
Many Priests with Nuns and religious visited the families and Holy Mass was celebrated at their homes and cared for their spiritual needs. Those who were in hospitals were visited and prayed over for healing and strength. Many spiritual nourishment programmes were conducted at Zonal level at Katuwapitiya.
Many group level Spiritual programmes were conducted. Particular focus was given to the mothers, youth and children. The children from the Daham Pasala in Katuwapitiya and teachers were taken on a pilgrimage to Madhu Shrine. Children’s spiritual camps were held to rebuild and enhance the faith of the children. After the completion of six months 600 people from Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade affected families were also taken on a pilgrimage to Madhu Shrine.
The objective of the pilgrimage is through the visits to Thottaweli Church to visit the 600 martyrs grave. The praise and worship services conducted by Rev. Fr. Kalana Peiris were carried out to rejuvenate and strengthen these families. Lay Faith Animation Teams with the participation of active Catechists and young leaders.
Monthly Praise and worship sessions are conducted to date at St. Sabastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya every second Tuesday of the Month at 7.00 in the evening.
It is in this backdrop that the Seth Sarana Caritas Colombo together with the ‘Family Apostolate’ headed by Rev. Fr. Claude Nonis, developed its Psycho-Social project. The project was designed to have a wide outreach, targeting the affected families including children by a group of professionals, trained cadre of Psycho-Social service providers. The Psycho-Social program has made significant achievements in the past six months with a goal “Sharing the journey of Emmaus with the affected families in 2019 Easter Sunday”. One of the encouraging facts of the program, was launched soon after the Easter attack, by the “Family Apostolate” with the guidance of His Eminence, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (Mental Health Division- District Hospital Negombo). Psychiatrists have had great success in its endeavor to improve mental health and wellbeing of the families including children.
To date over 400 individuals have benefited from the inner healing programmes through individual counseling and psychotherapy treatments. This has greatly reduced the exposure of children and adult to end up in anxiety, isolation, depression and ‘without hope of future’ syndromes. The impact of 27 sessions on ‘Healing the Wounds of Trauma,’ was conducted at zonal level in the respective Parishes, thus adding value to the program, involving 345 participants for these sessions.
The other encouraging factor of the program has been the incredible results achieved by the Psycho-Social assessment of the individual household. Findings of the assessment immensely supported to deliver individual focused results. To date 572 individuals have been supported with counseling. As a result of this 60 individuals have been identified as low risk individuals and provided counseling while 31 individuals identified as high risk individual. Those 31 individuals are closely being monitored with psychiatric treatment. The intentional focus has been given for children to be agents of peace. It is therefore pleasing to report the continued commitment given towards children. Children are now active participant of the project. 144 have a direct impact on their lives. They also have a space for them to be heard. The impact the project has made in the lives of children is heartening, but it’s also a constant reminder that there is much more things to do to assure the wellbeing of the children.
The ‘Psycho-Social and Pastoral Aspect’ of this programme caters to the unseen Aspects, which are the unseen needs of the people. It was very challenging to cater to the inner needs of the peoples – unseen desires and fears.
The social aspect of this programme caters to the ‘visible’ (seen) needs of the people and has been divided into five areas.
- Medical needs of the people
- Income generation
- Education of the children of the affected families
- Legal and housing issues
This Aspect was led by Rev. Fr. Lawrence Ramanayake and the Seth Sarana Team.
There were 275 families wounded. 10 critically injured and large sums of money has been spent on medical needs of the affected people. Expenses for them are in the millions and have not seized.
as a result of this tragedy the breadwinners of the families were affected. The critically injured people lost their jobs as they were unable to work due to injury and their traumatic condition, or were hospitalized and were paid no salary for those months. In short, their income was hampered. This is where we at Seth Sarana stepped in to provide for them. An evaluation of the conditions of these families had to be done to support them on a day to day basis by providing them with cash grants.
Among the 285 + 119 families that were affected, we have identified 64 from Katuwapitiya and 46 families from Kochchikade who needed direct support for Income. The reason being either loss of the breadwinner, critically injured or permanently injured or Loss of both parents.
With the guidance of His Eminence a team was appointed to look into the whereabouts of all the children whose families were affected and a decision was made to support and provide scholarships to all of them. 287 students were identified. As such the birth of “Shilpa Diriya Scholarship Programme” was launched on the 1″ December 2019. 185 children in the Katuwapitiya and 102 children from Kochchikade areas are the beneficiaries under this scholarship programme.
In his message to the children, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, states “Although tragedy has hindered your journey momentarily, every effort counts when you turn your situation in life into a blessing through the help you receive from friends and benefactors, transforming your future into a prosperous and blessed one. Make good use of this gift that has been given to you, by diligently applying yourself to your studies and striving to be a child who will grow into the right person to be a blessing to society.”
We support all the families who are living in rented houses. In order to find houses for them, we have purchased land in Katuwapitiya for 25 families in agreement with the Housing Authorities to build houses for them. For those families in Kochchikade who are living in rented houses, a plan to provide housing in condominium/flats in agreement with the government, is in discussion process and will be finalized soon.
These projects are currently in progress and we hope to continue them to strengthen these families n the future.
Thank you and God bless you.