The 36th anniversary of the assassination of Tamil human rights activist and local Catholic parish priest Reverend Father Mary Bastian was commemorated through a blood donation camp on Wednesday.
Mannar Diocesan Bishop Emmanuel Fernando officiated at the consecration ceremony in the evening at the Vankalai Holy Temple and a memorial service was held in front of the statue of Rev.Fr. Mary Bastian at the temple premises.
During the military offensives by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in 1984 in Mannar region, Rev.Fr. Mary Bastian and Rev Jeyarajasingham of Methodist Church in Murunkan were involved in a campaign that brought the atrocities perpetrated by the army on Mannar-based Tamil civilians to the notice of international human rights organisations and other priests in the major community.
After several soldiers were killed in a landmine attack that took place on 4 December 1984, the SLA responded by massacring hundreds of innocent Tamil civilians who were working in their paddy fields. On 13 December 1984, Rev Jeyarajasingham was shot dead by the SLA when he was travelling in his vehicle and later his body was burnt along with his vehicle. Following both incidents, Rev Fr Mary Bastian helped collect the remains of the victims and handed them to the relevant authorities. He was warned by SLA not to interfere in their activities on 31 December 1984.
On 6 January 1985, the SLA surrounded Vankalai and fired at the local St. Anne's church, killing Rev Fr Mary Bastian along with other civilians. Many eyewitnesses recall the soldiers dragging his body from the site to an unknown place. The then government fully denied allegations against the SLA.
The memorial service was followed by a blood donation event organised by the Missionary Mary Bastian Community Development Society and carried out by doctors, nurses and staff from the Mannar General Hospital. Attendees included Vankalai parishioners, assistant parishioners, and church pastors, members of the Catholic Youth Union, and participants.
After the blood donation event, assistance was provided to those in need.