Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army on Thursday (11) morning had the rare privilege of offering a new statue of Our Lady of Madu to the most sacred Holy Madu Shrine in Mannar during a Special Mass and simultaneously consecrating the statue in an Army-built pedestal, adjoining the main Shrine premises.
The day's sequence of proceedings began with the carriage of the newly-carved Holy Statue of Our Lady of Madu by Army personnel in a motorcade before it was blessed in a Special Mass inside the main Shrine after Most Reverend Dr Emmanuel Fernando, Bishop of Mannar and Reverend Father Peppi Sosai, Administrator at Madu Shrine received the statue for consecration and invocation of blessings.The enshrinement of the new statue and its associated sheltering pedestal came about, following an initiative taken by Major General Kumudu Perera, Commander, Security Forces - Wanni (SF-W), Brigadier K.D.C.G.J Tilakaratne, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 61 Division and 54 Division GOC together with Commanders of 611, 612 and 613 Brigades coordinated the event with the support of Brigade staff and all under command battalions.After the conduct of the Holy Mass and receipt of divine blessings in the main Shrine, the Commander joined enshrinement of the statue by unveiling a plaque and joining a symbolic sapling planting project, spearheaded by the Security Force Headquarters - Wanni (SFHQ-W).SFHQ-W launching this mega tree planting drive that coincides with the Army-initiated ‘Ranaviru Haritha Arana’ mega tree planting programme expects to plant a total of 45,000 saplings inside all formations under the SFHQ-W, in addition to the saplings that were planted in and around the Holy Shrine.On the same occasion, the day's distinguished guest lauded the services of the clergy and sisters, resident in the Holy Shrine by presenting special appreciative gifts to all of them and thanking them for inviting him to be at the Holy Shrine where its annual feast is underway.Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake in a brief appreciative address to the occasion reminded that the Army has given all possible encouragement and support for promotion of spiritual faiths of all denominations, intending to equally foster post-conflict reconciliation and co-existence moves.The address to the occasion is as follows;As the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, I consider my visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Rosary in Madu which is commonly known as Madu Church as a historic event in my life.I have served in these areas during different stages in my military career being in various capacities and I have never thought that, I would be fortunate enough to arrive in this holy premises of great spirituality and divinity to attend such a grand religious celebration.Therefore, it is a privilege for me to be present at today’s religious observances and I humbly express my sincere thankfulness to Most Reverend Doctor Emmanuel Fernando, Bishop of Mannar and Reverend Father Peppi Sosai, the Administrator of Madu Church for the invitation extended to me.
It is well known fact that, Madu Church, which is considered as the holiest place of worship for Sri Lankan Catholics, is a landmark of our country.The Church is venerated by everyone in the country and holds value as a symbol of unity not just between Tamils and Sinhalese but among the devotees of different religions and communities in this island.I am glad that I got this opportunity to attend Madu festival, the annual feast of Our Lady of Madu.It is one of the biggest events of Catholics in Sri Lanka, which attracts thousands of devotees from around the country regardless of ethnicity.When we speak on the Sri Lankan history, the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka have always been there to protect the religions be it Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism or Islam.The Forces have maintained strong connection with the communities to ensure them to follow their religious beliefs without any disturbance.Let me provide you an example.The Sri Lanka Army is rich with different ethnicities and religions; it is obvious that the majority is Buddhists but we have Catholics, Christians, Hindus and Islamists.However, we have preserved their right to practice what they believe in and established Associations for every religion, namely; Army Buddhist Association, Army Christian Association, Army Hindu Association and Army Muslim Association.These Associations organize necessary observances with respect to the religious festivals in the country and facilitate Army members to attend the rituals and share their practices with members of other religions. As human beings, we should respect everyone irrespective of the religion, caste, race and gender and we should ensure everyone’s rights.At present, the Army is taking every effort to promote religious harmony and religious reconciliation in the country.We have always extended our helping hand to religious festivals of any religion as the Army sees the importance of such religious activities as valuable opportunities to promote and embrace peace and reconciliation to deliver everlasting peace in our country.Further, it is our endeavour to foster civil-military partnership in order to prevent violent extremism and radicalization in the future.Today, every community has gathered at this sacred premises as members of one family and strengthened ethnic and religious ties indicating that the religion could unite the people.I am personally well aware how badly the annual feast of Madu Church was affected during the conflict period.The festival was held in Chillaw then, due to threats from terrorists and the devotees were with fear and distress over unexpected dreadful incidents, which may occur at any time.However, today it is with a sense of contentment, I witness you perform religious activities freely with a smile on your face signifying the freedom and tranquillity you enjoy as a nation.We are a nation that suffered from brutal terrorism over three decades.Members of Sri Lankan Armed Forces selflessly contributed to bring peace and harmony to our motherland by eradicating terrible violence and bloodshed from our soil.I am very proud to state that, our country has become a role model to the world as a nation who defeated terrorism on its own soil and this is a great achievement for peace-loving nations.With the unprecedented commitment of the armed forces of Sri Lanka, we are enjoying harmony and freedom for ten years.The combat soldiers who valiantly fought at the face of enemy have now been employed to expedite national economic development and reconciliation process.Unimaginable post-conflict efforts and realistic reconciliation mechanisms implemented by the government have ensured that all citizens of the country live with peace and dignity.The 5R concept, which stands for Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reintegration, Resettlement and Reconciliation; is one such movement initiated by the government soon after the termination of Humanitarian Operation to strengthen civil-military partnership to get the war affected civilian into their normal lifestyle.This venture became successful with the immeasurable contribution of the Army.The Army proved its capacity in effectively assisting to all the stages of 5R concept and continues to promote reconciliation among the communities by winning their hearts and minds.Through our experiences, the Sri Lanka Army has introduced an engagement and assistance policy and convinced the people that the military is the best partner for sustainable peace and prosperity.In light of the present requirements, the Sri Lanka Army has taken an initiative to transform into a capacity-based organization. Further, the entire Army is divided into three categories with respect to the assigned roles and tasks. According to this concept, 1/3 of the Army is earmarked for Combat Readiness, 1/3 for Nation-Building and the other 1/3 for Administration of the Army.Our Army personnel have proven that they belong to a very professional and disciplined Army though there are very few exceptions as same as other renowned Armies in the world.I would like to take this opportunity to admire the silent service rendered by the religious leaders; whether it be a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Priest, a Hindu Swami or an Islamic Moulavi, he has the power and ability in establishing religious harmony and reconciliation in the minds of followers and in the society at large.The most important factor to create a resilient society is to promote connectivity among the different religions.A society, which appreciates and respects other religions would never stand against another human being. Therefore, I believe that, there is a huge national and social responsibility that has to be shouldered by our religious institutions to create opportunities for peace and harmony among different religious groups in the country.Being a Buddhist by birth, I am not much qualified to give you teachings on your religion.However, I wish to emphasize this message “Love your neighbour as yourself” which is applicable to anyone of us irrespective of our religious belief.Let’s respect and be compassionate to everyone alike and make our country prosper with peace and harmony.Finally, I once again wish to thank everyone who have bestowed this golden opportunity to me to visit Madu Church. May Mother Mary will flourish all her love towards our citizens and ensure peace and harmony forever ! God Bless You !