இறுதி யுத்தத்தின்போது முள்ளிவாய்க்காலில் மக்களுக்காக தன்னுயிர் ஈந்த அருட்தந்தை சறத்ஜீவனின் நினைவாக அருட்தந்தை சறத்ஜீவன் நிதித்திட்டம் 2013ம் ஆண்டு அவரது குடும்பஅங்கத்தவர்களால் ஆரம்பிக்கப்பட்டது.
Concern of Late Rev. Fr. Sara was on the whole on the people. He asked his fellow priests who were with him in the bunker life, “What will happen to our people now?”
On the last day of the war, when Fr. Sara and other 80 people with them came out from the bunker proceeding to their destination, they had to walk through the dead bodies of many people in many places, where vehicles also were caught in fire. A person who came with Fr.Sara said that Sara was telling again and again, “I could not bear this, I could not bear this”. “இதை என்னால தாங்க இயலாமல் இருக்கு”. He was much affected by the scene he saw around him. He was also tired of not having meals or water for several days. One person said that they did not have food or water for the last 3 days. They were the only people who came alive on the 18th of that month of May. Many others came out before the 17th of May 2009.
Sara was walking bare footed as he could not walk with slippers on the sandy areas. He walked in the hot sun. I still have his slippers in the bag he carried last. I don’t know how he walked in the hot Sun for about 4 km until he fainted.
Sara was born in Bohawanthalawa on May 13th 1968, the day of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. He was named Thaddeus Sarathjeevan and he was called by “Sara”. He was a chubby and cheerful baby. He was very active. Even in small age, he climbed the coconut trees and other trees. In our family, no one knows how to climb a coconut tree. My mother related the story that when he was a baby, he was affected by diphtheria and was given 18 injections, and he survived. God saved him in his infancy to do great things later in his life and to die for his people whom he loved.
During the tsunami tidal waves in the year 2004, December 26th, he was miraculously saved from the tsunami tidal waves which hit Mullaithivu. His parish house and the Church were completely washed away. This is another occasion in which God saved him. There were many other occasions that he was saved by God. It was God’s plan to keep him until the last day of the war in Mullivaikal, on the 18th of May 2009, and God called him for eternal rest on that day.
Memorial statues were built at Fatima’s Church, Uruthirapuram premises in remembrance of Fr.Sarathjeevan and the other people who died in the war. This was opened on the first anniversary day of Fr.Sara, 18th of May 2010, with the effort of the priests of his batch.
One of the persons who were displaced with Fr.Sara from Uruthirapuram narrated this event: While they were moving from one place to another, Fr.Sara came and told them to throw the container of petrol which was in the tractor, but they forgot. Fr.Sara again came behind them running and asked them whether it was thrown away, and at once they took it and threw it. When it fell on the ground, and in another second, there was a shell that fell on that container and it blasted and a huge fire erupted. They felt that they were saved by F.Sara’s instruction.
In Mullivaikal, there was another occasion. Shells were falling all over the places and a shell hit a wall and it collapsed. They were all trying to move away. But, Fr.Sara was insisting to clear the broken wall. When the people cleared the debris of the wall, they found a few children there. They were alive and were rescued.
Many of the persons whom I met and who were with Fr.Sara, said that, it was because of Fr.Sara that they had meals. They said that Fr.Sara would request them to pray ‘to get food’ when he went out to find food for the children, the priests and the others with them. Every time he came back with food. He was standing on the queue with the other people to get food for the people who were with him. There was scarcity of food and was very expensive. But Fr.Sara found food with the help of his prayers and trust he had on God. The Father in charge of the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) also sent money to him to help the people who were with him. Fr Sara loved very much the people of Vanni. They were the people, he treasured in his mind.
Once when he was talking to me on the phone, he asked me “Acca did you ask the Bishop to request me to come out?” I answered “no I did not”. He said “Acca do not ask for any favour. I will come out with the people. Untill then I will be with them”. That was his very firm reply. I said to him, “your wish is my wish”. “உன்னுடைய விருப்பம் தான் என் விருப்பமும்”. He was satisfied. I did not insist that he should come out, leaving the people behind. I feel very sad, on one hand, that he did not come out, but, on the other hand, admire his courage to stay in Vanni amidst heavy shelling, bombings and shootings for the sake of his people. God gave him strength and wisdom to make that decision.
Fr.Sara died on 18th May 2009, Monday, about 3.00 p.m. I visit his tomb on 18th of each month and light two candles for him. I think of him and pray for him every day and every minute. I still preserve his clothe-rack in the almyrah with his clothes, his travelling bag and his shoulder bag with its contents which he carried until the last day. They were brought to me by the children whom he loved.
The priest in-charge for JRS that time, met me during the funeral days of Fr. Sara and told me that Fr.Sara carried all the JRS account books. He received them all safely. It was a big traveling bag. He wondered how Sara carried all the heavy books with him. Fr. Sara was a very sincere person. he writes the accounts every day.
Once, when I was at the Church of Our lady of Fatima, Uruthirapuram, Sara was doing all the accounts of JRS till the early morning. He travelled to Vavuniya for a meeting on the same day early morning. I was so concerned about his health because he didn’t have sleep that night. He was so concerned about his duties. We don’t give him enough money from home. He managed his expenses from the salary paid by JRS, for, he served as the JRS coordinator, and, with the monthly payment for the priests from the diocese, he managed all his expenses.
One day, when I was at Uruthirapuram and counting the coin collection from the church and asked him what do you do with these coins, he answered that is the income acca for the priests to live, otherwise how could we live. I felt so sad about this way of living and but I did not afford to give him monthly any money to support him and I feel very sad about this still.
When Fr.Sara was at Uruthirapuram, I used to visit him during weekends and spend time with him. During the Church feast, I went there twice and stayed there. They were the only very few occasions that I spent the days with him. He was the Parish Priest of the church of Our Lady of Fatima, Uruthirapuram between the year 2005 and August 2006. In August 2006, the A-9 road was closed and I could not travel to see him. Fr.Sara came home in 2007 by ship, and 2008 March by plane, because we told him that we will pay for the cost of the plane ticket. He came and gave baptism to Merryjan, his brother, Sakthi’s 3rd son. This was the last time I saw him. I did not know that time that I will not see him anymore. I kissed him and said good bye to him when he was ready to leave by auto in the early morning to the place where all passengers gather (Sinhala Maha Vid.Ground) and waiting to go to the airport.
Fr. Sarathjeevan was working in the Mullaithivu Parish as Assistant Parish Priest when the tsunami tidal waves hit Mullaithivu in December 26th, 2004. We did not know any news about Fr.Sara for 3 days. Later, we heard that he lost all his belongings in the tsunami and escaped while they were saying Holy Mass near St.Joseph’s statue which was built near the Road side, little away from the seashore. He was wearing his cassock and lost all his belongings, including the ordination photo albums. Sara engaged himself in rescuing bodies of the dead, blessing them and burying them in mass graves with the other priests and people in that area, giving a helping hand.
I went to Mamulai and met him in January 2005 after the tsunami. They were living in a hall built next to St.Antony’s Church, Mamulai. He was busy all the time helping the people living in the schools and welfare centres as Internally Displaced People. I spent 10 days with him and returned. Sara was a very kind person in heart. I am sure I will not meet any other person like Sara. He lived his life for the others.
In the early part of 2005, he was appointed as the Parish priest of Uruthirapuram Parish and got displaced 18 times since October 3rd, from Uruthirapuram to other places until his death. He was the last person to leave the parish. He had concern for his parishioners. Hence, he waited until the last family left the place.
I met a lot of people who narrated their experiences about Fr. Sara and his work for the people. Many said that he was the last person to eat the meals. There was shortage of meals during their life in the bunker. He confirmed that everyone had their meals. It was only after that he would eat what was left for him. He would keep awake while others were sleeping in the bunker.
One of the priests told me once that Sara was with him at Valaignarmadam. They were in the same tent. Sara would be awake until the other priest went to bed. He was only after that he would go to sleep. He was careful that his snoring should not disturb the others. From his life I learnt that he lived for the others at all time.
I met another person who was with Fr.Sara until the last day and his last breath. He came to our house and my brother was also at home that time. He came on a Sunday, 10th Feb 2013. He said that he would tell anyone that there was no other priest like Fr.Sara. “பாதர் சறா உன்னதமான, உத்தமமான ஒரு குரு. அவரிடம் சுயநலம் என்ற ஒன்றே இல்லை. மக்களுக்காகவே வாழ்ந்து, இறந்தார்” என்று சொன்னார்.
He said after finishing all the checking on the last day, May 18th 2009, Sara felt difficulty in walking after walking a long distance. The SL army gave some water. When he brought that to Fr. Sara, he asked him at once, "Did you drink water?" When he replied ‘yes’, Fr. Sara drank water. He was concerned about others first than his own needs. Later, he felt a pain in his chest and he sat on a chair under a tree. As he lost consciousness two of his children took him on the tractor to the makeshift hospital at Irrataivaikal. A person in the hospital said that three bottles of Saline was given to him. When the 4th bottle of saline was injected, he saw tears coming out and fell from Fr.Sara's eyes. Then he breathed his last and died. He said that he wiped his tears.
I don't know why Fr.Sara cried. In our life time, we never saw Sara crying. But, there were two instances that Sara cried. One was on his last breath. He must have felt the defeat of the Tamil people in the last war in Vanni and would have cried thinking that we lost everything. Sara never feared death from his small age.
The other time Fr.Sara cried was at the JRS meeting which was held in December 2008 at Trinco. He requested the priest in-charge of JRS to "Pray for me and for my people" at the JRS meeting. His eyes were filled with tears. The priest said this when he met me at home after Fr.Sara's death.
There was another incident too. Once Fr.Sara and a boy were going on a motorcycle to buy fish, for the 90 people who were living with them, including children. The 'persons there' rounded them up and forcefully wanted to take the boy. They said “you have to join us” ("எங்களோடு இணைந்துகொள்ள வேண்டும்”). Fr.Sara, holding the boy's hands very firmly, said that he cannot allow that. They refused to listen to him, and told them to go to the person in-charge. All of them went. Sara again holding this boy's hand said that this boy belonged to us and he was studying for priesthood and I he could not allow that. But, they were insisting. Fr.Sara further said that we priests are here for the people. If we leave now, the international community would not care for these suffering people. If you are taking him, I would sit here and would not move until you release him. (சறா சொன்னாராம் “நான் இதிலேயே சப்பாணி கொட்டிக்கொண்டு இருப்பேன்”.) The person in-charge could not do anything in front of Fr.Sara’s firmness. He allowed them to go. ("ஓகே பாதர் நீங்கள் கூட்டிக்கொண்டு போங்கள்”).
I only would say that God was with Fr.Sara during his life and especially in the times of the days of ruthless war,
in the bombings, shelling and shootings and all types of hardship, in the life he lived in bunkers.
God the Father's real presence was with Fr.Sara. Otherwise, he would not have this much braveness to bear all t
he sufferings that he underwent.
- Nithila Mariampillai
என்றும் கிறீஸ்துவின் பாதையில்
Contact by post:Fr. Sarathjeevan Foundation