For a while, SDL was everywhere, sometimes attracting media attention by its out-of-the-box tactics. Notably, SDL’s 1984 Los Angeles rally on Wilshire Boulevard highlighting Indian intervention in Sri Lanka made it to the local news. An attention-grabbing unique prop at the protest was a live baby elephant.
Archbishop Roger Mahoney and officials of the Los Angeles Archdiocese to bring reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamils in the area. Events were set in motion when the SDL held a protest outside St. Mary’s Church in Whittier (about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles) in 1984.
The group accused church leader Father Angelito Peries of lobbying support for the Tigers by
characterizing the Eelam war as a Buddhist-Catholic conflict. Among Peries’ outrageous
statements to the media was the accusation that Sri Lankan security forces were “killing any and all Tamils labeling them terrorists and separatists.” (Los Angeles Times, Letters, March 15, 1985)
Unable to ignore the growing complaints against Peries, the Archbishop called for joint
discussions. Besides Walter, the Sinhalese were represented by the late Fr. Wilathgamuwa, Mr. Joseph Silva, and several Catholics who were SDL members. The church leaders’
recommendation that the two sides find common ground for reconciliation by participating at a religious ritual such as Christmas didn’t go down well with the Tamil representatives. It did, however, open a new window for Catholic-Buddhist relations. SDL organized a Christmas Day mass in Sinhala at St. Anthony Catholic Church in El Segundo, attended by Buddhist monks and made colorful by a Kandyan-dance perahera of children leading Father Wilathgamuwa to the service. The annual event, moved to Maria Regina Catholic Church in Gardena and then to St. Catherine Laboure, and continues to date, always ending with a traditional Sri Lankan lunch and get-together