Sri Lankan church worker killed in attack while delivering aid

Fr Nicholas Pillai Pakiaranjith, a 40-year-old priest, has been killed in a claymore attack in Kilinochi, north east Sri Lanka, while delivering essential aid to people made homeless by the conflict.

The Caritas Confederation strongly condemns the brutal attack and calls on all sides in the conflict to safeguard the security of aid workers.

Fr Packiaranjith was killed in a claymore blast in the Mallavi area on 26 September when he was carrying humanitarian supplies to a camp and orphanage at Vidathalvu for people affected by the war.

Fr Packiaranjith, who had been serving as a priest for the past 10 years, was also the District Coordinator of Mannar for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

Caritas Sri Lanka National Director Damian Fernando said, "The killing of Fr Packiaranjith has shocked us. He was deeply committed to the cause of the poor and the marginalized. It is a heinous crime to attack and kill such peace-loving and unarmed heroes of our society.

"We strongly condemn all acts of violence that inflict pain to innocent civilians. We call on Sri Lankans of all religions to condemn this act of violence and unite to bring about a lasting solution for peace in the country. We also call all parties involved in the conflict to find a political solution to the conflict. We call on the international community to condemn this killing and effectively voice their strong condemnation of the ongoing senseless war."

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley Anne Knight said, "This incident is a reminder to us of the gravity of the situation and of the need to establish lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

"Humanitarian aid workers and the religious personnel are the ones who accompany, serve and plead the cause of the innocent victims of war and violence in this country. All sides in the conflict must ensure their lives are protected and that they have the security to be able to provide humanitarian assistance.

"We wish express our deepest sympathies to the people Fr Packiaranjith worked with and served, to the Church in Sri Lanka, to JRS, and to his family."

Over the past several months there has been an increase in the number of violent attacks against innocent civilians. Two Caritas staff members were killed last year in attacks. Caritas is also calling for an independent investigation into the disappearance of Fr T. Nihal Jimbrown last seen crossing a government checkpoint last year.