The Vatican's representative to Sri Lanka this week appealed to the humanity of those responsible for the disappearance of a Catholic priest in the northern Jaffna peninsula while Jaffna Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam said he is yet to get a response to even his second appeal to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaske over Father Jim Brown's disappearance.
Father Jim Brown, 34, was last seen August 20 at a military checkpoint in Allaipiddy, enroute to his parish accompanied by a man named Vimalathas, a father of five. "We appeal to the sentiments of humanity of those responsible for his disappearance, asking them to recognize their fault and to act consequently", apostolic nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari
"We feel sad and discouraged about the disappearance of Father Nihal Jim Brown", Archbishop Zenari told AsiaNews this week. A priest for three years, Father Brown was appointed pastor of Allaipiddy only a few weeks ago. He went missing one week after the death of some 20 people when a church in Allaipiddy was shelled.
Jaffna Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam mobilized for international support as soon as he heard of the priest's and layman's disappearance, AsiaNews reported. The prelate sent an appeal to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaske for the second time on Monday.
"I requested that the president reply to our letter about the disappearance of Father Nihal Jim Brown and his helper, but we have not heard back yet", Bishop Savundaranayagam told AsiaNews.
Amnesty International, in an urgent appeal Tuesday, called for an investigation into the disappearance of the priest. " As Kayts Island is strictly controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), there are suspicions that the two men may have been taken into custody," said Amnesty.
A token hunger strike and a special Mass were held Monday from 9.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. at the St. Theresa's Church, Kilinochchi, demanding the release of Allaippiddy Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Jim Brown and his aide Venseslos Vincent Vimalathas who were abducted by the Sri Lanka Forces in Allaippiddy in Jaffna District on 20 August and condemning the killings of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lanka Forces.
All Catholic priests belonging to the Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu Dioceses and devotees from Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu Districts participated in great numbers.
Following the prayer and hunger strike, the participants marched to the UNHCR office in Kilinochchi along the A-9 road and handed over a memorandum requesting Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, to influence the release of the abducted priest and his aide.
Rev. Fr.A.P. Bernard handed over the memorandum to M.Camilla Kragelund, the Resident representative of UNHCR for Kilinochchi District, on behalf of the priests and people of Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu Dioceses.
Rev Fr. James Paththinathan, Mullaithivu Parish Priest delivered a speech condemning the act.
A copy of the memorandum was handed over to S. Vethanayagam, the Additional Government Agent for Kilinochchi District.
Rev. Fr. Bernard, speaking to journalists, expressed concern over the abduction and told that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces possibly have a hand in it. The excerpts of his interview are: "In general, the abductions are carried out in order to frighten other priests and persons involved in serving the public and particularly to punish Fr. Jim Brown for his involvement in taking the injured people in the Army shelling to Allaippiddy Church".
As far as I know, an Army shell hit the Church, where Fr. Jim served, and killed 20 people and injured many. He tried to take the injured people to the hospital and when the Army denied permission, he approached the Jaffna District Judge. That might have provoked the Army and made them to kidnap him. I do not have any concrete evidence on this so far, because the Bishop is dealing with the matter. However, incidents of this nature affect our services in the military controlled area."
Earlier, in late 1990, a Jesuit priest from U.S.A., Rev.Fr. Herbiet and his aide disappeared in the same manner while travelling in a motorbike in Eravur area in Batticaloa District and later was found out to have been kidnapped and killed by the Army and Muslim Home Guards.