How the Virgin Mary Survived Sri Lanka's Civil War

The Catholic feast of the Assumption took on special meaning on the island nation as pilgrims once again could travel to a shrine to the mother of Jesus

Eranga Jayawardena / AP

Thousands of Sri Lankan Christians gather at the sacred Madhu Shrine, located in a former war zone that is 144 miles northeast of the capital, Colombo

For Catholics around the world, Aug. 15 is among the holiest of feast days. It marks the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when the mother of Jesus is believed to have been physically taken into heaven after death so that her body would not suffer earthly decay. For the Catholics of Sri Lanka, Aug. 15 this year marked a similar miracle: the survival of a 500-year-old statue of the Virgin, through the fiery tumult of a quarter-century of civil war, which was re-ensconced in a jungle church that was once again safe to travel to.

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