Bishop: End the civil war in Sri Lanka

From Union of Catholic Asian News

COLOMBO (UCAN) -- The head of the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka has issued a statement calling for an end to the country's civil war.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo issued the statement on Oct. 29, following a meeting of 400 Sinhalese and Tamil laypeople and clergy, including the Church's diocesan councilors from around the country. They gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo.

The annual meeting of the Diocesan Council of the Church of Ceylon, held Oct. 26-27, discussed the current problems of war and violence in the country, as well as parish work. At one session they discussed how their diocesan councilors could promote peace.

Bishop de Chickera, saying the harrowing experiences of victims of this war prompt God's people to take action, called in his statement for "wider ecumenical intervention."

The bishop released his message the day after Tamil rebels carried out an air attack on a government military base in Mannar, dropping three bombs. Three soldiers were injured and two buildings slightly damaged, according to state media reports. One rebel aircraft flew south to Colombo and dropped two bombs on the capital's main power station, in Kelanitissa. State media said that attack injured four workers and damaged two turbines.

Religious leaders need to speak out against the war, Anglican Father Marimuthupillai Sathivel, parish priest of St. Michel Church in Colombo, told UCA News. "The silence of religious leaders at this crucial moment may be taken as support for the war," he added.

The priest spoke of the fear of those who had been displaced by the fighting in the north of the country, where the government has mounted a sustained offensive with the aim of defeating the rebels militarily.

More than 300,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, according to the United Nations.

Lamenting the loss of life due to years of the fighting, Father Sathivel said it was a shame the government had allocated billions of rupees for the war rather than for development.

More than 80,000 people have been killed since Tamil rebels began fighting for a separate state in 1983. Aid agencies place the current number of displaced people around the country at more than 600,000.

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