Healing Sri Lankans after War and Disaster

August 5, 2008

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Fr. Paul Satkunanayagam

Sri Lanka is home to several diverse ethnic and religious groups—There's the majority Sinhalese Buddhists and significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities.

For over thirty-five years, the LTTE—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam—also known as the Tamil Tigers—have conducted a violent secessionist campaign against the central government.

Four years ago, one of the tiger leaders, “Colonel Karuna,” broke away from the rest of the LTTE and sided with the government.  Both he and the Tamil Tiger chief, Prabakharan, use child soldiers for their insurgent operations.

Many of the former child soldiers fled after the split in the rebel groups, but there was no mental health infrastructure to help them adapt to life outside of violence and capitivity.

Father Paul Satkunanayagam is founder and director of the Professional Psychological Counseling Centre of Batticaloa, Sri Lanka (PPCC). Part of his work is providing residential treatment--kind of a half-way house—for child soldiers.  He's helped dozens of child soldiers, as well as people traumatized by the 2005 Tsunami and displacement from the Civil War.