We welcome all of you to this memorial mass today to mark the memory of all the victims of the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on Boxing Day last year. While we have come to pray for the repose of the souls of 40,000 dead and the million ravaged and homeless from our own country, we must not forget the nearly 250,000 who were lost and the millions devastated in all the countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean that were battered by these raging waves of mountainous height.
For those of us who watched the pictures of the aftermath of the Tsunami on our TV screens at home and read about it in the newspapers, we found the sheer scale of the disaster incomprehensible to grasp. It became evident to us that despite mankind's development of technology and his apparent mastery of our earth, the primeval forces of nature when unleashed upon this planet would and could not be contained. It is indeed a salutary lesson to us that we are but frail human beings subject to the forces of nature and the laws of God. It is in God that we must trust that he, in his infinite love and mercy, will safeguard us. Suffering and death have their own redemptive qualities and for those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are also called upon to follow him. But we are also required to be our brothers' keeper. The grief and the pleadings of those victims of this cataclysm must pull at our heartstrings and our consciences, so that we must help to alleviate their misery.
It is nearly six months since this catastrophe occurred and it is appropriate that we should gather today in the presence of Bishop Kingsley whose diocese of Batticaloa / Trincomalee was to bear the brunt of the disaster that befell our island. While the government and its organs were paralysed, it was left to the Church and the NGOs to muster the immediate personnel and resources to offer food, clothes, shelter and relief to the stricken people. There was no time to waste and Bishop Kingsley led by personal example. He and his EHED team moved tirelessly to work the telephone and by email to inform the world and to seek emergency funds. So too did the other Tamil Bishops. The international Tamil Diaspora immediately swung into action and many Tamil households and shops collected supplies, and made donations to help our hapless brethren. Some stalwart officers and members of St Patrick's College and St Michael's College OBAs in London took an extraordinary role in collecting substantial funds for relief work through the Bishop.
But the scale of the devastation is so large that we cannot rest with our generosity so far. Joe Public in the UK contributed nearly £500 million, which has been placed with the Disasters Emergency Fund to be channeled through the British NGOs, including the Catholic Charity, CAFOD. But it is the continuing dithering of the Sri Lankan government and its callous attitude towards releasing reconstruction funds to the North and the East that is worrying. The Tsunami was a national disaster that affected all sections of the populace and gave rise to an opportunity that should have brought all the races and creeds of the island together. But, even after six months, the £3billion dollars of Tsunami funds promised by donor countries to Sri Lanka are still not released, as the Government is yet to agree the details of how some of it will be used in the reconstruction of the North and East. While this money is unconscionably blocked by racial politics, the lives of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Tsunami in the North and the East continue to be blighted by a loss of their livelihoods and the absence of basic housing, adequate food or an expectation of a decent life. Surely, they have a right to a better life.
So, today, let me ask you to pray for all those souls so tragically lost in this disaster, and to also beseech him to grant the survivors who are still languishing in distress, his merciful love and his blessings