Priest Injured While Aiding Trapped Sri Lankans

Caritas Calls for Civilian Rescue

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JAFFNA, Sri Lanka, APRIL 23, 2009 ( A Caritas director in the Vanni region was seriously injured in the bombing of a Church today, prompting a renewed appeal from aid agency for the rescue of endangered civilians.

Caritas reported that Father T. R. Vasanthaseelan’s legs were injured, and one had to be amputated after shells hit St. Anthony’s Church in Valaignarmadam this morning.

Civilians took refuge in the church to escape the fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebel forces.

Caritas estimates that tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the small area of land designated as a “safe zone,” where currently the rebel soldiers have taken refuge and are using the people as human shields in the conflict.

A rescue operation is under way to remove the people from this zone, but Father Vasanthaseelan remained in the Vanni region to provide assistance as Caritas continues to call for aid for the trapped civilians.

Another priest, Father James Pathinathan, member of the member of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development, was also injured and hospitalized this week.

The Caritas secretary general, Lesley-Anne Knight stated: “Father Vasanthaseelan is a much loved figure in Sri Lanka and throughout the Caritas confederation. He is a man of peace, courage and hope.

“He has lived among the people he seeks to serve and accompanied them through their suffering. He has been a sign of love and faithfulness throughout such difficult times.

“That aid workers are suffering only underlines how innocent people, women and children are being killed and injured in Sri Lanka’s civil war and reinforces our calls for an immediate ceasefire.”

She continued: “Both the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels have obligations under the Geneva Conventions to protect the lives of civilians and allow humanitarian access. The United Nations and the international community must hold them to these commitments.”

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