Sri Lankan Prelate Says Peace Still Reachable

Affirms Church’s Leading Role in Reconciliation

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, MARCH 30, 2009 ( Faced with increased violence in Sri Lanka, the archbishop of Colombo is affirming that peace is still attainable.

Archbishop Oswald Gomis said this in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, released today, in the wake of escalated conflict that left over 50 dead in the country.

He noted that the Church, by keeping good relations with all people, is well-placed in order to «help heal the divisions exacerbated by the civil war between the Colombo-based government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which began in 1983.»

In a new government offensive Sunday, land and naval forces pushed the rebel group, the Tamil Tigers, back to Mullaitivu, a remote corner of northeast Sri Lanka, into 8.4 square miles of land. This land includes a safe zone in which hundreds of thousands of people have been taking refuge, causing safety concerns and exacerbating basic needs.

The archbishop underlined the need for «dialogue and harmony» and an end to the conflict between the country’s Tamil and Singhalese populations.

He pointed out: «Nobody wants this conflict to continue. […] Among the majority of ordinary people there is goodwill and where there is a lack of goodwill we have to build it.»


The prelate stated his belief that that a solution is possible that takes account of both sides of the conflict. He affirmed: «I don’t believe the government would hear of [a ceasefire] just at the moment. But we have to have a political solution. We have to make people realize that fighting is not the answer.

«We have to ensure that people who belong as nationals in Sri Lanka can live together in harmony. For that, we have to assure them of their fundamental right to equality and justice.»

Archbishop Gomis underlined the Church’s role in rebuilding the community, stating, «There is a great need to move towards reconciliation — so much trauma needs to be treated.

«The Christian community has a particularly strong obligation in this area — we have both Singhalese and Tamil people within our flock. We have to make sure that we play our role bringing these two communities together.»

In early February, Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna went on a hunger strike to plead for assistance to the estimated 200,000 people trapped in the safe area of the war zone. He received help from the aid agency and was able to deliver it to the people on a secret trip to the region.

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