Sri Lankans are experiencing one of the worst economic and political crises today, yet they enjoy an “unusual unity and brotherhood,” say some Catholic nuns in the island nation in South Asia.
“The north and south are united. Sinhalese and Tamils have joined hands. Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus no longer see any differences,” says Sister Dulcie Peiris, a Salvatorian nun who has worked for reconciliation between Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic communities since the end of a civil war between the two groups 13 years ago.
Earlier this month, they all marched toward Colombo, the national capital, shouting, “Gota, go home,” a slogan they used to protest Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s president, and his government.
Rajapaksa, who had played a key role in ending the civil war in July 2009, resigned July 14. On July 20, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected president by lawmakers.
The protests began in April, when Sri Lanka spiraled into a severe economic crisis. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted tourism to the island, and Rajapaksa’s government has been unable to pay for essential imports.
In addition to shortages of fuel, medicine, food and other essentials, the country faces 57.4 percent food inflation, the World Food Program notes.
Salvatorian provincial Sister Shiroma Kurumbalapitiya was among thousands who protested at Galle Face Green in the heart of Colombo, demanding the resignation of the president. Galle Face, a 12-acre oceanside urban park along the coast, is the location of the old parliament house and the presidential offices.
Speaking to Global Sisters Report by phone from Galle Face, Sister Kurumbalapitiya said she came by train to Colombo from her base in Kurunegala, some 65 miles northeast, to join the protests.
“These days, I am in the streets with my people, and I will continue to be with them until we achieve our goal,” said the nun July 8, a day before protesters stormed the presidential palace. She returned to her provincial home only after the president resigned.
The provincial said she boarded the train with hundreds of people from her town to join the protests in Colombo.
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