by Melani Manel Perera
On Thursday, the Good Shepherd nun will be 80. She spoke to AsiaNews about the last years of her life, which she dedicated “almost by accident” to families in northern Sri Lanka, an area affected by the country’s ethnic conflict.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – For Sister Angela Fernando, the mission she undertook among the victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war in Sri Lana means “allowing everyone to experience the great love of God and Mary.”
Next Thursday, the nun from the Congregation of the Good Shepherd will celebrate her 80th birthday. However, the past few years have been the most “intense” in her life, she toldAsiaNews.
Her mission, which frequently brought her to northern Sri Lanka, especially to the north-eastern district of Mullaithivu, began almost by accident. “In 2011, I found myself at a rally in Colombo. There, I met a Muslim woman, who said she was from Mullaithivu. Almost as an afterthought, I took her phone number. Two days later, I felt an irresistible desire to go there and show my solidarity to these people.”
After an initial telephone conversation with the woman, Sister Angela got in touch with the Mullaithivu Women’s Resettlement and Development Federation (MDWRDF), a women’s group that includes Tamil, Muslim and a Sinhalese women from seven different villages.
“At that time, those places had no electricity,” she said. “Thus, we nuns along with Mothers and Daughters of Lanka, brought solar lamps to allow local children to study and prepare for exams.”
Since then, the relationship with the people Mullaithivu became permanent. Indeed, “We continued to work with women’s groups in order to promote their overall emancipation,” the nun said.
In addition, “Through our work of solidarity, we developed school curricula. We visited six schools and donated books, backpacks and other school supplies to some 450 pupils. We also organised a three-day trip to Colombo for the poorest students.”
In 2013 and 2014, “we tried a more direct approach in terms of support and reconciliation. To do this, we organised groups of six volunteers, each personally visiting families in the villages to listen to their stories and find solutions to their problems,” Sister Angela noted.
“In 2013, five groups visited the villages of Poodanvial, Kanukkerney, Ponnagar, Ambalavan Pokkanai, and Kepappilavu. In 2014, we focused on Mullivaikkal East and West, sending three groups.”