From Sri Lanka, an Ecumenical SOS

Appeal for Halt to Violence in Island Nation

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, JAN. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- More than 20 Christian leaders of Sri Lanka have called for a stop to the spiraling violence in their country.

The Christians appealed to the president, heads of political parties, and the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels to take immediate steps to halt the recent strife.

“The people of this country must take serious note that the culture of violence is spreading dangerously and indiscriminately,” the Christians leader said in a statement. “No one seems to be able to stop the spiral of killing for killing. No one even takes responsibility for wanting to stop this trend.”

Their warning is contained in an “Ecumenical Intervention for Peace by Church Leaders,” issued this week.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor of Westminster, in Britain, visited areas of Sri Lanka hit by the tsunami in December 2004.

During his stay, the cardinal met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, whose election last November was followed by an increase in Tamil Tiger attacks, according to the AsiaNews agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

Rajapakse suggested to the cardinal that the international community should exert pressure on the Tamil Tigers to stop the killings and return to the negotiation table.

He also condemned the killing, during the Christmas Eve Mass in the Cathedral of Batticaloa, of Catholic parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham of the Tamil National Alliance party.

100 in one month

On Wednesday, Amnesty International estimated that more than 100 were killed in one month of bloodshed in Sri Lanka, an island nation of 20 million.

According to the document by Christian leaders — more than half of whom are Catholic bishops — “different but equally tragic incidents are reported almost daily from various parts of the country. … As if by design, the center shifts from Jaffna to Colombo, to Batticaloa, to Mannarand now, after a period of some calm, to Trincomalee.”

They mention the killing on Jan. 2 of five high school students, of the Tamil ethnic group, from Sri Koneswara Hindi College and St. Joseph’s College. The students reportedly were shot. “The truth will emerge only through an independent commission acceptable to all parties,” specifies the ecumenical appeal.

An equally “heinous act” was the recent attack on the naval craft off the Trincomalee coast, in which 13 sailors died.

“This is a blatant violation of the Cease Fire Agreement and the LTTE [rebels] simply cannot disclaim responsibility for this and the recent spate of killings that have taken the lives of scores of service personnel,” states the document. “We similarly call for an end to these continuing and senseless killings in our country.”

The war for independence by the Tamil Tigers in the north and east of the country broke out in 1983. It has resulted in the loss of 65,000 lives.

Confrontation between the Singhalese, who mostly are Buddhist, and the Tamil minority, who are Hindu, plunged this small island off the Indian subcontinent into two decades of civil war. A cease-fire agreement was signed February 2002.

Peace talks between the government and the Tamil Tigers, launched in April 2003, have been stalled for some time.

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ZENIT Staff

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