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​Forgiveness in exchange for the truth

“We are prepared to forgive the killers, whoever they are and for whatever crime they committed against our loved ones; however, we want to know the truth about what happened to our husbands, children, brothers and sisters”.

This declaration was made by some 30 Muslim women and widows, Tamils, during a meeting at Negombo, about 40 kilometres from the capital of Sri Lanka. The gathering, says Melani Manel Perera of AsiaNews, was organized by Families of the Disappeared (FOD), an association which provides assistance to the relatives of the victims of the civil war that stained the country with blood from 1983 to 2009. “We do not want to punish those who harmed the victims, we just want them to come home. We want to know what happened to them and where they are”. Since the end of the civil conflict that saw the regular army and the Tamil Tiger rebels in opposition with reciprocal cruelty, this was the first time that the families of the victims and the disappeared had publicly demonstrated their desire to forgive the persecutors. During the meeting, the women launched an appeal to the Colombo authorities who had recently restored lands to the displaced Tamils: “Please, tell us the truth. If they are locked up in detention camps, please let them out! We do not want to know where the camps are; we just want them to come home. If you killed them, tell us when and why they suffered such an unjust fate. We have a right to know”. The meeting was an occasion to share in the search for the disappeared persons: the victims’ families did not limit themselves to the provinces where the conflict took place, but broadened its scope to the whole island in the hope of finding answers. The women are convinced that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth in response to the offences received is a fruitless venture: “For this reason”, they said, “we must forgive and seek justice right away. We have been demonstrating, protesting, and marching for our relatives for far too long”.Brito Fernando, President of FOD, adds that the association will continue to provide support for the relatives of the disappeared: “We will provide them with support during the trials as well”, he said. “We need to move forward with a new positive attitude. We must use non-violence to achieve our goals”. 

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St. Peter’s Square

Aug. 25, 2019

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