SLA blocks annual foot pilgrimage of Mannar Christians
[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 March 2007, 12:13 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) refused permission to about hundreds of Christian devotees to continue their annual foot pilgrimage to Calvary located in Komarasankulam in Vavuniya citing security reasons Wednesday morning. Devotees returned to Mannar after they were stopped at Murunkan on their way to Vavuniya. The SLA also turned down appeals made by Mannar Bishop Rt.Rev. Rayappu Joseph, church officials said.
Hundreds of Christian devotees began their foot pilgrimage to Vavuniya Calvary Wednesday morning around 4.40 a.m.from Mannar St.Sebastian Cathedral. They arrived in front of the Murunkan Police Station around
10.45 a.m. along Mannar-Madawachchi main road.
The number of devotees swelled to about one thousand with more from villages, Uyilankulam, Vankalai, Nanattan, Naruvalikulam, and Semmantivu joining the foot pilgrimage. On seeing the large number of devotees, army and police authorities told the organizers of the pilgrimage that they would not be allowed to continue further beyond the Murunkan police station to Vavuniya due to security reasons, civil society sources said.
At that stage, Mannar Bishop and senior Catholic priests made representations to military authority to allow the pilgrimage, as it is a religious event conducted annually. But the army rejected that appeal too on security reason, sources said.
The lunch was arranged for these devotees in a catholic church located behind the Murunkan Police Station. Police did not allow when devotees attempted to go to the church along the road close to the police station to have lunch. The devotees were forced to take a circuitous route via the playground of the Murunkan Central Maha Vidiyalayam located far away from the police station.
The devotees returned to Mannar without completig the annual pilgrimage, sources said