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Priest Charges that the Tamil Tigers are Kidnapping 17-Year-Old Minors and Others among 10,000 War Refugees Camping at the Church

ICC Note: Sri Lanka rebels are violating the sanctity of church providing sanctuary for 10,000 war refugees by forcibly recruiting young men to join their army.

By Walter Jayawardhana

3/21/07 Sri Lanka ( – The parish priest of Madu Matha Catholic Church charged that, despite continuous warnings not to do so, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) keep on kidnapping 17-year-old minors and young adults among war refugees who have camped themselves in the church premises.

Rev. Emilus Pillai, the parish priest, charged that LTTE recruiters enter church grounds and kidnap the war refugees among about 10,000 desolate people who have been living in the church grounds for protection for the last two months. They are Tamil civilians who have fled from the war between the LTTE, who are also known as the Tamil Tigers, and the Sri Lanka security forces.

He said, “First we told them not to enter the church premises armed, and banned all such people from entering the church premises. Now they come unarmed and forcibly take away 17-year olds and young adults to be recruited for the war.”

He said the church should become a sanctuary for all people regardless of their race or creed. He said by violating that concept, the LTTE has violated the sanctity of the church.

Father Emilius Pillai said the refugees have come to the church since they had no other place to go, and the helpless people should not be harassed at all and left alone.

The priest said he has seen it with his own eyes, how they come and visit the people living around the church, and kidnap them for war. On such occasions, they are careful not to step inside the church, Father Emilius Pillai pointed out.

The Reverend Father said the refugees are leading an extremely difficult life and spending a hand to mouth existence due to food shortages. On the top of that comes the LTTE harassment, he charged.

Describing the difficulties of the Madu Church refugees, the parish priest said they have been forgotten by NGO’s and the government. Father Emilius Pillai said they are living on meager rations of dry food supplied by World Food Organization. He was of the opinion that all should do a little more to lessen their misery.