Mariampillai Thaddeus Sarathjeevan (May 13, 1968 - May 18, 2009) was a catholic priest from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He was one of the few priests who remained with the refugees until the end of war in northern parts of Sri Lanka.
He died while he was leading the last batch of refugees to safety from war zone. He was 41 years old and in good health. Unconfirmed reports indicate that he was assaulted by soldiers.Rev. Fr. Sarathjeevan, known as “Father Sara”, was the coordinator of Jesuit Refugee Service for Kilinochchi district in Sri Lanka. He refused to abandon the refugees, including orphan children, when other volunteers and international organizations left the war zone because of severity of the war. He and his people did not have food or water for three days, until he was able to bring them to safety. They all had to stay underground in a bunker. In recognition of his service and heroic death, the Jesuit Refugee Service established Sara Project on his name.
The 41-year-old Tamil priest was one of seven clergymen who stayed till the end with refugees trapped in the war zone. His friend and educator Father Manuelpillai remembers him. He spent his last days in a bunker, concerned that he could say Mass.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Fr Manuelpillai T. Sarathjeevan, 41, stayed with his people in the No Fire Zone till the end. He died on 18 May, the last day of fighting between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, struck by a heart attack as he left the combat zone with the last refugees after it had come under complete army control.
A Tamil, Fr Sarathjeevan was a parish priest in Kilinochchi, and coordinator for the Jesuit Rehabilitation Service in Jaffna. He was one of seven priests who stayed with the people caught in Nanthi Kadal Lagoon along the coast, trapped during the last phase of the war.
He had been with the civilian population since the start of the army operation in Vanni. He died on the road, exhausted by months of deprivations and lack of everything under airstrikes and shelling.
The attempt to save him by taking him to the hospital in Vavuniya was to no avail. The city itself is crowded with a majority of the 280,000 refugees created by the war. From there his body was taken to Colombo before a plane could take to Jaffna for his funeral. However, after days of waiting Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam, bishop of this northern city, decided to go ahead with the final service.
Yesterday colleagues of the priest, sisters and men religious from Jaffna, as well as members of Caritas Sedec bid Father Sarathjeevan farewell, first in a private Mass in Tamil presided by Fr James Pathinathan, then in a moment of prayer led by Mgr Oswald Gomis, bishop of Colombo, accompanied by the three vicars of the capital, Fr Ivan Perera, Fr Marcus Ferdinandez and Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando.
Father Sarathjeevan’s body was cremated at the Borella General Cemetery in Colombo; his ashes will be buried in Jaffna later (funeral pictured).
At the end of the service, Carmelite Sister Teresa Ranee, read a letter in memory of Father Sarathjeevan written by his friend and educator, Fr David Manuelpillai.
“Following the footsteps of the Lord and master, Our Lord Jesus Christ, he said: ‘I will not leave my people.’ These words of determination and commitment from a person with six years of priesthood are exemplary”.
“In the last few days he was upset about not being able to celebrate Mass as he had to spend a few days in the bunker without food and drink,” Father Manuelpillai said. “Ultimately, when he was able to come out of the terrible circumstances, he could not bear to witness the agony of his people and his heart failed.”
Fr.Raviraj opened an Saving account in the Commercial Bank in the name of Fr.Sarathjeevan Foundation. Here the information
Father Sara was born in a small village called Bogawanthalawa in Sri Lanka on May 13, 1968. His parents Mr. and Mrs. Mariampillai were teachers from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Bogawanthalawa is within beautiful tea estates of Sri Lanka. Soon after he was born in this cold climate, his father became an asthmatic patient. Therefore his parents were transferred to Kaddukaran-kudiyiruppu - a small village with 13 families and an ancient St. James Church. This region is one of the hottest regions in Sri Lanka. In this deserted village with white sands and Palmyra trees, Fr. Sara spent his early childhood until 1973. Then his family moved to Jaffna - their hometown.
Father Sara had his primary and high school education at St. Patrick's College, Jaffna. This is one the most prestigious Catholic schools in Sri Lanka. All seminarians of Catholic church study at St. Patrick's College. After graduated from the high school and a technical college in Jaffna, he answered the call to serve his people and church by entering at St. Martin's Seminary on March 01, 1993. After graduated from St. Martin's Seminary, from 1994 September to November 2002, Father Sara studied philosophy and theology at St. Francis Xavier's Seminary in Jaffna.
A statue was unveiled in his memory during his first year memorial service on 18th May 2010. Statue in his Parish Rev. Fr. Yavis, director of HUDEC, Caritas Vanni, built a preschool and dedicated to Rev. Fr. Sarathjeevan on July 31, 2012.