Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC celebrated its golden jubilee at the BMICH on 29th November, 2018. His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to Sri Lanka, all the directors of Caritas diocesan centres, ambassadors of Switzerland, Germany and Norway and a large number of invitees including the past and present Caritas staff graced the occasion. The celebration depicted Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC’s half a century journey serving the poorest of the poor, vulnerable and the marginalized regardless of race, religion, caste or gender.
Proceedings began with the Thanksgiving Eucharistic Mass which was celebrated by the President of the Bishops’ Conference, His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando (Bishop of Badulla) followed by tea and refreshments. The guests including Maha Sangha were ushered in, to the tune of traditional drums and welcomed by a delightful multi-cultural ‘Pooja’ dance. After observing two minute silence in respect of the deceased personnel of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, the jubilee song was played.
Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, the Chairman of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, addressed the gathering and enlightened the audience as to how the Caritas Confederation started in the 19th century and spread through out the world reaching out to the needy. He thanked all the international Caritas collaborators and other dignitaries for their presence and went on to describe how Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC’s humble beginnings. He reiterated that Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC is not an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and was founded by the exercise of the very objective of faith commitment in Jesus and the Gospel inspiration.
In the first felicitation message, His Excellency Thorbjorn Gaustadsaether, the ambassador for Norway in Sri Lanka congratulated Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC for its five decades of service and added that it was a pleasure to see Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC is diverting its attention to environmental issues by conducting beach clean-up campaigns. He assured that Norwegian government will continue to support SEDEC in the project implementations.
The event was made colourful by two dances, performed on the themes of ‘Peace and Reconciliation’ and ‘Integral Human Development’. His Excellency Hanspeter Mock, the ambassador for Switzerland in his felicitation message appreciated the work carried out by Caritas Sri Lanka, especially in the lines of Safe Labour Migration. This project is sponsored by Swiss Development Corporation and he said that the funding will continue in solidarity with the Swiss government.
A ten minute video documentary on humanitarian services conducted by Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC was shown and it was well appreciated by the audience. His Excellency Joern Rohde, the ambassador of Germany, emphasized that Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC is one of the largest and most respected humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka. Organizations like Misereor of Germany are heavily involved in the projects and the ambassador said that the funding is assured up to 2021.
Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC’s grass root level work was in focus during the event proceedings as four success stories were presented to the audience. A single mother from Muttur was thankful to Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC for providing her a house through its housing project as her house was destroyed by the tsunami. A gentleman from Gampaha explained how Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC assisted him to find his wife working in Kuwait who was not in contact with the family for more than twenty years. An Ayurveda doctor cum lecturer from Jaffna was greatly benefited by the peace and reconciliation programmes conducted by Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC. She is also the president of the village peace committee (VPC) and helping the members to uplift their capacities. A farmer from Kuliyapitiya exhibited the harvest from his home garden developed through the food security programme and described how the project assisted his family to uplift their economic status.
Caritas staff from its 13 diocesan centres and national centre that completed more than 15 years’ service was felicitated with a plaque and a valuable certificate. History Book titled ‘Journeying Together for a Peaceful Society’ depicting the 50 years’ service of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC was launched and presented by the National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC, Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke to all the dignitaries as well as everyone who was presented at the occasion.
In his address, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith reminded that the late Thomas Cardinal Cooray, Archbishop of Colombo, decided to establish ‘Social Economic and Development Centre’ or ‘SEDEC’ in order to inform and carry out a programme of awareness building and support. He reminisced that he had the privilege to work as a Caritas staff member in 1970/71 and later as the chairman. He said that during the 30 year old war and the tsunami Caritas staff members worked tirelessly. He thanked all the donors from various countries for their generosity for supporting Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC.
Conclusion note and vote of thanks was delivered by Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke. With deep sense of honour and gratitude he reminded the services offered by the previous 10 national directors. Their tremendous workload has helped Caritas to reach the present level of excellence. He thanked Caritas Intenationalis, all the donors, the diocesan directors, the Caritas staff throughout the network, all the eminent guests and invitees for their presence.