Sri Lanka war over when divisions overcome

By  Anto Akkara, Catholic News Service
  • May 21, 2009
{mosimage}BANGALORE, India - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared an end to the nation’s civil war in mid-May, but the head of the Sri Lankan Catholic bishops’ conference said the war will be over only when the island nation is able to overcome its ethnic divisions.

“The war is technically over. But we can celebrate the real end of war only when we are able to overcome our prejudices and live together as one people,” Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from his home May 19.

“I was extremely happy to hear the president (Rajapaksa) say today that the word ‘minority’ will be removed from our dictionary.”

The government said it killed rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, ending an ethnic conflict that has claimed more than 80,000 lives. Prabhakaran, who founded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the mid-1970s, led the group’s campaign for autonomy for the predominantly Tamil areas of the Indian Ocean island.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed to both sides to protect civilians and asked the international community to provide aid to tens of thousands of refugees. In northern Sri Lanka, there are “thousands of children, women and elderly from whom the war has taken years of life and of hope,” the Pope said May 17.

The Pope asked government and rebel troops to facilitate the evacuation of civilians, guaranteeing their safety.

“I also ask humanitarian institutions, including Catholic ones, not to leave anything untried in meeting the urgent need of the refugees for food and medicine,” the Pope said.

Fernando said the conflict, which turned into a virtual civil war beginning in 1983, was caused by “the treatment of a section of our people (ethnic Tamils) as not fully Sri Lankan.”

The country’s Tamil-speaking ethnic minority accounts for 18 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 19 million people.

Many among the Sinhalese-speaking Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka believe that Buddhism and Buddhists should enjoy supremacy in Sri Lanka.

Fernando said the immediate challenge before the nation is “to take care of the quarter-million Tamil civilians who have been rescued (from the war zone) and help them rebuild their lives.”

On May 19 Rajapaksa pledged the rapid resettlement of those Tamils, now in camps for internally displaced persons, but in a statement the same day Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, said humanitarian agencies needed unrestricted access to the camps.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.