Bishop’s plea for peace in Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013 p 6. April 19, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
Tags: Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Diocese of Colombo
The Bishop of Colombo has called upon India to protect its Sinhalese visitors following a series of high profile assaults on Buddhist monks.
While the April 1 letter of Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey is addressed to the Indian government and leads with the condemnation of last month’s attack on two Buddhist monks in Tamil Nadu, sources in the Church of Ceylon tell the Church of England Newspaper the true audience is the government of Sri Lankan Pres. Mahinda Rajapaksa and its subject the sharp increase in sectarian violence targeting Ceylon’s Christians and Muslims
Bishop Canagasabey wrote “several incidents of intimidation and violence against Sri Lankans have been reported recently from within and outside the Sri Lanka,” adding the “most serious” had been the attack on Buddhists monks in Tamil Nadu state.
“In the first incident in Tamil Nadu, a group of post graduate archaeology students had been attacked during a study tour to a temple site in Thanjavoor. In the second a group of Buddhist pilgrims who had arrived in Chennai from a visit to sacred sites in North India had been attacked at the Chennai Railway Station. In both instances the monks had been singled out for abuse and physical violence, possibly due to their distinctive dress. Several extremists Tamil groups have been identified as perpetrators of these attacks in India. I appeal to the Central Government of India, and the State Government of Tamil Nadu to stop this act of violence immediately,” the bishop said.
The Bishop added that “within Sri Lanka, attacks in the form of intimidation and violence especially on Christians and Muslims have been too many to list out.”
The Church “views with grave concern and denounces this growing and very dangerous trend of sectarian violence. These incidents are yet another manifestation of the fast spreading intolerance and fundamentalist extremism which is engulfing many societies today,” the bishops said.
It was a “reflection of the refusal to listen to people who think believe and act differently from us and to accept their freedom and right to do so. From here it is but a short step to blind and mindless violence against the group or groups we choose to demonize,” he said.
He stated that “while we very rightly condemn such acts by others, we also need to turn the spotlight inwards and reflect on and examine our own failings in this regard. It may be that unconsciously in the practice of our own beliefs and religion we have caused avoidable irritation and offence to those of sister faiths,” he said, adding “we can hardly demonstrate against and condemn such acts by others against us, if we ourselves condone or participate in similar behaviour against those who are different from us.”
It was the duty of state to guarantee the protection “of all groups in society,” the bishop said, warning the Buddhist nationalist government “during the past decades we have witnessed in this country the tragedy, huge damage and destruction brought about by the negligence of this primary duty. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Cry for justice for Ceylon: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013, p 6. February 7, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
Tags: Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Shirani Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka
Sunday February 3rd will be a “day of lament” for Sri Lanka, the Bishop of Colombo told his clergy last week.
In a 23 Jan 2013 pastoral letter, Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey said “it is with a heavy heart that I write it, the reason being that in the past few days we have seen the complete collapse of the rule of law in our nation. We no longer appear to be a constitutional democracy.”
Sri Lanka’s government and the judiciary have been on a collision course since President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party filed an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on 6 Nov 2012. Last month a parliamentary panel found her guilty of irregularities after she ruled that a bill submitted by the president’s younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, proposing an 80-billion rupee (£400 million) development budget must be approved by nine provincial councils.
“If the impeachment motion is passed in parliament in defiance of decisions of the country’s judiciary, it will signal a massive breakdown in the rule of law and checks and balances,” warned Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists Asia director.
However, a government spokesman told reporters in Colombo the chief justice had politicised the judiciary and her actions were “very unbecoming of a chief justice.”
Bishop Canagasabey disagreed. “The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person, or group of persons and exercised arbitrarily.”
“The breakdown of such accountability is a process that has been building up for the past several years. It has now climaxed in the recent events that have seen both the Executive and the Legislature disregarding the provisions of the very Constitution which they swore to uphold and defend, giving the appearance of a country ruled on the principle that ‘Might is Right’.”
The bishop said that warnings from the church and “civil society bodies repeatedly issued have been ignored. There is currently a climate of fear and helplessness, where people remain silent rather than speak out against rampant injustice, intimidation, violence and falsehoods.”
Bishop Canagasabey asked members of the diocese to fast and wear white clothing on 3 Feb 2013 as a sign of their prayers and “to grieve over the state of our country today.”
Ceylon bishop repudiates UN rights resolution: The Church of England Newspaper, March 30, 2012 p 7. April 3, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Shantha Francis, United Nations Human Rights Council
The Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala has denounced a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to investigate civilian deaths in the closing weeks of the country’s civil war.
In a report released by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Bishop Shantha Francis defended his country’s human rights record. Speaking at a press conference held at Christ Church Cathedral in Kandy last week, Bishop Francis said Sri Lanka did not need to heed the advice of overseas Tamils or supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers in protecting human rights.
On 22 March 2012, by a vote of 24 to 15 with 8 abstentions, the UNHRC adopted a resolution directing the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to report back next year on whether the Sri Lankan government had responded to its findings that both sides in the 26 year long civil war had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report also found that tens of thousands of civilian refugees were killed in the final weeks of the war when the government shelled rebel-held territory in the north of the island.
The resolution called on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka, which had also called for an investigation into accusations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Sri Lanka’s special envoy on human rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, told the HCR the resolution was “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed” and walked out of the session after the vote.
Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the coalition government welcomed the vote on Sri Lanka saying it underscored the importance the British government gave to supporting a lasting peace on the island. “We urge the Sri Lankan Government to take the necessary steps to implement the recommendations of their Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as soon as possible,” the minister said.
However, Bishop Francis urged his countrymen of all religions and ethnic backgrounds to rally round President Rajapaksa and to repudiate foreign interference in Sri Lanka. He added that it was presumptuous for Britain to lecture Ceylon on human rights as the Western imperialist powers had repeatedly violated the rights of his country’s people during the colonial era.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Archbishop of Canterbury presses Sri Lanka government on human rights reforms: The Church of England Newspaper, June 3, 2011 p 9. June 8, 2011Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has pressed the government of Sri Lanka to address “issues of human rights” in the South Asian nation at a meeting with the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister and High Commissioner at Lambeth Palace on May 12.
Dr. Williams discussed the Sri Lankan government’s response to the April 11 UN report that accused the army and rebel forces of committing war crimes in the closing days of the war. The archbishop spoke of the “profound and urgent need for an equitable, inclusive and sustainable political settlement in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s internal conflict” with Foreign Minister Neomal Perera and Acting High Commission P.M. Amza, a statement issued at the close of the meeting said.
The archbishop also “stressed the importance of avoiding any culture of impunity with respect to human rights violations, and of transparency” of the reconstruction and reconciliation programmes for the devastated regions. Dr. Williams is metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon and oversees the dioceses of Colombo and Kurunagala.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his assent to the election of the Ven. Dhiloraj Canagasabey as Bishop of Colombo in the Church of Ceylon.
At a meeting of the diocesan synod held at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo on March 5, Archdeacon Canagasabey received a plurality of votes from the 91 priests and 242 lay delegates taking part in the meeting. He was the sole candidate standing for election.
The new bishop currently serves as Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya and is Chaplain of St. Thomas’ College, Bandarawela. Educated at the Jesuit-run St Michael’s College in Batticaloa, Archdeacon Canagasabey trained at the Theological College of Lanka, and earned Bachelor’s degrees in Theology and Divinity from the University of Serampore.
The new bishop was consecrated on May 14 in Colombo. Dr. Williams appointed the Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, Bishop Paul Sarkar of Dhaka, to serve as chief consecrator, and will be assisted by the outgoing Bishop of Colombo Duleep de Chickera and the Bishop of Kurunegala Greg Shantha Francis. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon and his assent is required for the election to be affirmed.
“My wife is a Sinhalese. I am a Tamil. I can see the common identity in my children. It would be strengthening to do work such as reconciliation and healing with different communities in our Church,” the new bishop told reporters.
Ceylon bishops divided over Sri Lanka war crimes report: The Church of England Newspaper, May 6, 2011 p 6. May 11, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Leaders of the Church of Ceylon have divided over a UN report that accused the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of committing war crimes in the closing months of the country’s civil war.
On April 27, Bishop Greg Shantha Francis of Kurunegala told a press conference the UN paper was flawed, and would serve only to destabilize the country’s attempts at reconciliation and rebuilding in the wake of the 26 year war between the government and separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
However the former Bishop of Kurunegala, Kumara Illangasinghe, endorsed a statement calling upon Christians to “take into serious consideration the stories of our brothers and sisters contained in the report, along with its conclusions and recommendations.”
The 196-page UN report, released on April 25 found that the government and the LTTE had committed war crimes in the closing months of the war. In the five months leading up to the government’s May 19, 2009 victory over the LTTE, tens of thousands of civilians were killed, the report said.
The three-man panel set up to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found credible evidence of widespread civilian deaths due to government artillery barrages of rebel held territory. These deaths were compounded, the UN report argued, by the government’s refusal to allow aid agencies to come the assistance of the civilian population in the war zone until after the LTTE was defeated.
The LTTE, however, was also guilty of war crimes, and had used civilians as human shields to discourage government attacks, and had executed civilians who attempted to flee from rebel held territory.
“The UN Panel report is completely baseless and lacks credibility,” the Minister of Mass Media and Information, Keheliya Rambukwella, told the UN’s IRIN news agency on April 26.
However, the statement endorsed by Bishop Illangasinghe—a former member of the Anglican Consultative Council’s standing committee—said the UN report confirmed stories church leaders had heard of government war crimes and LTTE atrocities.
“We have received desperate calls, emails and messages about how the government repeatedly shelled the no fire zones in which it asked civilians to take shelter, how hospitals and food distribution centers were attacked when their locations were known and clearly marked and about people being killed and injured in these places and in bunkers they had dug with bare hands,” his statement said.
“Instead of denial and rejection that seems to be happening now, we believe all Sri Lankans should treat this report as a resource and tool” in finding justice and “reparation for victims,” his joint statement concluded.
However, Bishop Francis supported the government, saying the UN report was unhelpful. “At a time like this, what we expect from the international community is only a positive approach. On behalf of our country and our mission I condemn the action of Ban Ki-Moon. We commit all our undivided support to our President,” he said.
President Rajapaksa’s government had taken “very positive” steps to reconcile and rebuild Sri Lanka, Bishop Francis said. “It is a time all our people joined hand in hand and it is the first time in our country that such a thing has ever happened.”
Colombo bishop quitting Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010 p 6. December 30, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Bishop of Colombo has announced that he will step down from office on Dec 31 and leave Sri Lanka once a successor has been appointed.
On Dec 19, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera said he was retiring after nine years in office, and would serve as vicar-general of the diocese until a successor was chosen at the May meeting of the diocesan synod. The bishop has not offered an explanation as to why he was leaving the country.
A strong critic of government human rights abuses, Bishop de Chickera has been a leading voice in seeking reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka after the decades long civil war.
In a submission last month to the country’s Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation written with the vicar-general of the diocese of Kurunagala, Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop de Chickera called for an independent investigations of war crimes committed by the government in the closing days of the civil war.
Bishop De Chickera has also played a high profile role in the Anglican Communion, and was selected by Dr. Rowan Williams to preach to the bishops attending the 2008 Lambeth Conference. From the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral, Bishop de Chickera called for the bishops to be agents of social and political change and for the communion to “resuscitate the challenge of unity in diversity.”
“In Christ we are all equal,” Bishop de Chickera said, there is “space for all” within the Anglican Communion regardless of “color, race, gender or sexual orientation.”
The Anglican Communion must exercise its “prophetic voice” and be the “voice of the voiceless,” calling into “accountability those who abuse power,” the Ceylonese bishop said.
The bishop also created a small fracas by closing his Aug 3 sermon to the 2008 Lambeth Conference with a traditional Buddhist chant. Bishop de Chickera however, failed to say he had substituted the Buddhist text for a Christian one, which in English stated: “I take refuge in God the Father, I take refuge in God the Son, I take refuge in God the Holy Spirit, I take refuge in the One Triune God.”
A short lived outcry arose among non-Sinhalese speaking traditionalist bishops at the conference, who were perturbed by the reciting of a Buddhist chant at Christian worship.
Dr Williams appoints a bishop for central Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 9, 2010 December 9, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed a bishop for the Diocese of Kurunegala in the Church of Ceylon.
On Nov 7 the diocese announced that Dr. Williams and the Bishop of Colombo had selected Archdeacon Greg Shantha Kumar Francis to succeed Bishop Kumara Illangsinghe as the fifth bishop of the Central Sri Lankan diocese.
A spokesman for Lambeth Palace told the Church of England Newspaper the choice fell to Dr. Williams in his capacity as Metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon after the diocesan electoral commission “was unable to decide on the right name by the necessary majority.”
Following his announcement that he would retire by year’s end, an electoral commission consisting of six clergy and six lay delegates was elected on Sept 19 to select a list of candidates to succeed Bishop Illangsinghe.
However, the committee was unable to submit a slate of candidates by April 3, 2010 for election at the 54th annual diocesan synod, prompting the Rev. Neil Wimalaratne to ask the Kandy District Court to block the election of a bishop for violating section A.3.14 of the Constitution of the Church of Ceylon.
Mr. Wimalaratne asked the court to compel the diocese to conform to the Church of Ceylon’s constitution and place the selection of a new bishop in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Colombo acting in conjunction with the electoral commission.
The diocese responded by placing the matter in the hands of Dr. Williams and the Bishop of Colombo, who “proposed a name, in consultation with the diocesan consultative body,” Lambeth Palace said.
Buddhist riot over Akon concert in Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, April 9, 2010 p 8. April 16, 2010Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Buddhist extremists have forced the cancellation of a concert tour in Sri Lanka by the pop singer Akon, after a mob ransacked the offices of his booking agent in Colombo for insulting the Buddha.
On March 31, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo denounced the failure of the police to stop the riot, and also condemned the arrest by the police of a Buddhist convert to Islam for allegedly defaming Buddhism.
On March 22, Buddhist extremists attacked the offices of Sirasa Media, who in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau was organizing the tour for Akon, the stage name of Aliaune Badara Akon Thiam, an American pop singer of Senegalese extraction.
The protesters were offended by Akon’s latest video “Sexy Chick,” which shows bikini-clad women dancing at a pool party, while in the background stands a statue of the Buddha. Jathika Bhikku Sansadaya, a Buddhist monk organization affiliated with the Sinhala nationalist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) demanded the government cancel the concert stating Akon had insulted Buddhism.
After the riot, Tourism Minister Achala Jagoda met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and on March 23 the government announced that it would not issue Akon a visa, forcing the cancellation of the tour.
Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo upbraided the police for their inaction. “Reports that the police failed to prevent the attack and did not object to some of the perpetrators of this offense being released on bail the same day, are worrying,” he said.
“Such behavior implies political patronage in the attack and political interference in the investigations. When some who frame the laws of the land and some of those responsible for the enforcement of the law disregard the law, the plight of the people is critical,” he said in a statement given to the media.
Bishop de Chickera also criticized the detention of Malini Perera, a Sri Lankan expatriate living in Bahrain who had written two books describing her conversion from Buddhism to Islam. Police arrested the 38-year old author while she was on holiday in Sri Lanka, charging that her books offended the religious sensibilities of Buddhists.
“The detention of Malini Perera, a Sri Lankan who converted to Islam, reportedly on the grounds of defamation of Buddhism, needs clarification,” the bishop said.
“It will help to know exactly how the contents of the books she wrote defame Buddhism. If not, it would appear that she is being punished for either converting to Islam or for publishing her religious experiences; both of which cannot be considered offenses and are well within her rights,” the bishop said.
Church leaders in Sri Lanka have voiced concern over the arrest of the runner-up in last month’s presidential elections, demanding that the details of the treason charges leveled against General Sarath Fonseka be made public.
On Jan 26, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reelected to a second term of office by a margin of 58 to 40 per cent against the former army chief of staff General Fonseka. Following the election President Rajapaksa dissolved parliament and called for new elections, but on Feb 8 Gen. Fonseka was arrested on treason charges for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government while he was military commander.
In a statement issued last week, four of the island nation’s eleven Roman Catholic bishops and the country’s two Anglican bishops released a statement challenging President Rajapaksa. “The willful violation of electoral laws … sadly demonstrated that might is right,” the bishops said.
The vote in last month’s election divided along ethnic lines, with the Sinhalese majority backing President Rajapaksa and the Tamil minority supporting General Fonseka, who led the successful campaign to destroy the LTTE, the Tamil Tigers—the Tamil separatist group. Analysts fear the government’s unwillingness to extend a helping hand to the defeated Tamil minority will set the stage for a new round of ethnic fighting.
On Feb 13 the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo, issued a statement calling for the government to make public its charges against the general.
“The manner of the arrest and detention of General Sarath Fonseka, has disturbed all Sri Lankans who value dignity and order in public affairs,” he said.
The arrest was “a blot on the democratic, cultural and religious traditions and image of our country,” the bishop said, noting that the government had offered “conflicting reasons” for the general’s detention.
The rule of law must be upheld, the bishop said. “If there have been violations of the military code, it must be left to the Military to handle professionally. If he was arrested for planning a coup and the assassination of the President, which are very grave charges, the people should know the basis of this allegation. In either case he should be entitled to his rights,” Bishop de Chickera said.
“In the event that the prevailing confusion is not clarified and a transparent judicial process is not set in place, this action is likely to be interpreted as an attempt to humiliate a presidential candidate who fought a hard campaign, or an attempt to obstruct him from campaigning and participating at the forthcoming general election; or both. The people’s right to clear information on such a serious matter regarding such a prominent personality should not be withheld,” he said.
Welcome for Sri Lanka plan: CEN 10.02.09 p 7. October 6, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
|First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Anglican Bishop of Colombo has welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s pledge to resettle by January 31 the majority of the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) driven from their homes in the final months of the 26-year civil war between the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
However, Bishop Duleep de Chickera on Sept 24 called for the government to open the “areas being de-mined and reconstructed” to the press and to give regular updates on the reconstruction of northern Sri Lanka.
“This will in turn provide information to all Sri Lankans, whether displaced or not, on the progress being made in this regard,” he said, and in doing so, “the government will demonstrate transparency in its management of the crisis and State Ministries and Officials will quite rightly be held accountable by the people.”
On Sept 9 the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the government would release IDPs from government camps to live with relatives, subject to police checks. The Sri Lankan government has said it hopes to resettle up to 80 per cent of the IDPs by year’s end, with most people in new homes by Jan 31.
Aid workers have been critical of the poor conditions in the camps, raising fears the coming monsoon season will lead to outbreaks of disease. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that one camp, Menik Farm, was built to house 28,896 IDPs, but is housing 54,621 refugees. Reports the release programme had been delayed prompted protests from Bishop de Chickera. “If the decision has been put on hold it must be reactivated,” he said. “If the response of relatives has been slow, more time and wider publicity should be given.
“If persons said to be released are in fact being transferred to camps in different Regions, this is misleading and must stop. Reports of the lack of co-ordination amongst State Authorities are disappointing, and all those responsible for implementing this decision should be required to ensure co-ordination, compassion and speed,” the bishop said.
The decision to release, should be seen as an “interim measure,” Bishop de Chickera said. “The much more urgent task is to expedite the process of resettlement. Once the ‘home areas’ of the Displaced are cleared of mines and the required infrastructure built, persons displaced, whether in the camps or with relatives, should be resettled in their original homes,” he said.
The Bishop of Colombo has called upon his government not to treat all Tamils as potential terrorists, but to affirm their “rights and dignity” as citizens of Sri Lanka.
In a statement published in Sri Lanka’s national newspapers, Bishop Duleep de Chickera has also urged the government to take swift action to address the address the humanitarian crisis in Northern and Eastern Ceylon left in the wake of the 26 year long civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers.
On May 18 the BBC reported the Sri Lankan army had killed the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The government reported that over 200 Tamils, including Prabhakaran and seven other senior Tamil Tiger leaders, were killed in a “final battle” between rebels and government troops. The war was now over, the government’s information ministry said as the army had “liberated the entire country by completely liberating the north from the terrorists.”
On May 7, Bishop de Chickera urged the government to take the necessary steps to ensure that its military victory would be followed by a just and lasting peace. The hundreds of thousands of refugees “crushed and deprived for years” by war, should be treated humanely, he said.
“We require a visible shift from sympathy” for Tamil refugees from their status as the human flotsam of war towards their acceptance as fellow citizens, he said, which affirms “their rights and dignity as Sri Lankans.”
“If a lasting solution to our larger and more tragic conflict is ever to be reached we need to engage in two more crucial shifts,” Bishop de Chickera argued. The first is “to overcome the tendency to see ghosts of the LTTE in every Tamil. If not, an entire community will be held under surveillance for the rest of their lives, some of whom will inevitably be driven into the arms of the next Tamil militant resurgence.”
The second is for a “just and speedy political response to the grievances of the Tamil people,” the bishop said.
Mired in ethnic conflict since independence from Britain in 1948, the civil war began in 1983 and has led to the deaths of an estimated 70,000 civilians. According to a 2001 government survey, Sri Lanka’s main ethnic groups are the Sinhalese (82 percent), Tamil (9.4 percent), and Sri Lanka Moor (7.9 percent). In the wake of independence, the Sinhalese majority began to disenfranchise Tamils, who they charged had been favored by the British in the colonial era. In 1972 the country’s name was changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, Sinhala made the official language and Buddhism declared the nation’s primary religion.
Formed in 1976, the LTTE under the leadership of the charismatic Velupillai Prabhakaran began a campaign for a Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, where the majority of Tamils reside. In August 2005, the assassination of Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, intensified the conflict, and in 2008 a hard-line anti-LTTE government ended a Norwegian brokered ceasefire and began the military campaign that led to victory this week.
Ceylon’s Anglican and Catholic Bishops have released an open letter to the government and the rebel Tamil Tigers pleading for them to permit aid to reach the estimated 250,000 civilians displaced in the fighting in the Vanni region of Northern Sri Lanka.
The bishops urged the two sides to act now. “This is a very critical humanitarian crisis faced by fellow Sri Lankans. The needs of food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and, above all, physical security of these our sisters and brothers and children need to be addressed without delay.”
Last month the World Food Program (WFP) warned that the government’s military campaign to end the thirty year old civil war had left civilians “facing a terrible situation with many deaths, injuries and lack of food, shelter, safety and medicine.”
Food assistance and relief work to the region was halted by the government at the start of its ground offensive in September. While the fighting had left the government in control of the region, the Red Cross reported that civilians, “most of whom have been displaced,” were no “completely dependent” on humanitarian support.
The March 25 appeal was endorsed by the Anglican Bishops Duleep de Chickera of Colombo and Kumara Illangasinghe of Kurunagala, and Roman Catholic Bishops Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna, Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, and Norbert Andradi of Anuradhapura.
The bishops stated the “plight of these trapped civilians has become absolutely desperate,” and urged “all sides” to “recognize the helplessness and powerlessness of these desperate Sri Lankans.”
The bishops commended the government for creating a “seven mile long strip” along the coast as a “no-fire zone” and would allow civilians to flee, but urged both sides to avoid using artillery and in “areas where civilians reside.”
All sides should have the “humility and the courage” to agree to allow aid through the WFP to reach civilians, and to allow the Red Cross to transport the sick and wounded of the battlefield and to allow humanitarian organizations to oversee the evacuation of civilians, the bishops said.
Church pressure on Tamil Tigers: CEN 2.06.09 p 6. February 10, 2009Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
Church leaders in Sri Lanka have called upon the Tamil Tigers stop using civilians as human shields against attacks by government forces. Last week the Sri Lankan military broke a decade long stalemate in that country’s civil war, and captured a number of strongholds held by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
Speaking on the 61st anniversary of Sri Lank’s independence last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa send the end of the war was in sight
He promised full civil rights to the Tamil minority of Northern Ceylon once law and order was restored. “I pledge to you today, that these people who share our motherland, will be liberated and given the equality and all rights that they are entitled to, under the Constitution,” the Sri Lankan President said.
The 25 year old civil war waged between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists in the north and east of Sri Lanka has left over 63,000 dead and tens of thousands displaced by the fighting. Both the Tamil Tigers and the government have come under criticism for their conduct towards civilians in the disputed regions.
“The LTTE claims to be fighting for the Tamil people, but it is responsible for much of the suffering of civilians” in the disputed territories, said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch on Dec 15. “As the LTTE loses ground to advancing government forces, their treatment of the very people they say they are fighting for is getting worse.”
Human Rights Watch accused the Tamil Tigers of forced recruitment of soldiers by requiring each family to supply two or more soldiers to its ranks. The Tamil Tigers have also instituted a pass system at road junctions and other strategic points—forbidding civilians to flee to government-held territory to escape the fighting.
With government forces closing in, the Tamil Tigers have blocked people from fleeing from the fighting. In a joint statement issued with the island’s Roman Catholic bishops, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, and the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala, the Rt. Rev. Kumara Ilangasingha called for the rebels to leave civilians alone.
“There should be no restriction of the civilians’ right to life and movement,” they said.
Call for Christmas cease-fire in Sri Lanka: CEN 12.19.08 December 19, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
|The Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops of Ceylon have called for a Christmas ceasefire in strife torn Sri Lanka.
On Dec 17 the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera and the Bishop of Kurunegala, the Rt Rev Kumara Ilangasinghe along with three Roman Catholic bishops asked that in the “spirit of Christmas,” the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — the Tamil Tigers — “declare a truce to include Christmas and the New Year.”
The 25-year-old civil war waged between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists in the north and east of Sri Lanka has left over 63,000 dead and tens of thousands displaced by the fighting. Both the Tamil Tigers and the government have come under criticism for their conduct towards civilians in the disputed regions.
Read it all in the Church of England Newspaper.
Call for peace in on-going strife in Sri Lanka: CEN 11.21.08 p 5. November 24, 2008Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera has called upon the Sri Lanka government and the forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)—the Tamil Tigers—to end the civil war that has left over 65,000 dead since 1983. His remarks came as Tiger Tamils carried out a series of surprise air attacks on Colombo with light aircraft dropping bombs on an army base and on the city’s main power station in Kelanitissa.
Speaking to his diocesan synod on Oct 26, Bishop de Chickera said the church had a duty to speak out for peace, and to offer its support for the over 600,000 people driven from their homes by the fighting. Tamils fleeing the violence in Northern Ceylon were being “demonized” by the majority Sinhalese community, he said, and were regarded as potential traitors.
Many Tamils had become “trapped in the struggle for military supremacy and the divisive political agendas of the warring sides. Tamils are also treated with growing suspicion and are subject to harassment as the anti terrorist propaganda taints them all as threats to national security,” he said.
It was unjust, Bishop de Chickera argued for Tamil refugees to register with the police, while their Sinhalese neighbors were free to move about the country. This “sent out signals that Tamils particularly must be kept under surveillance. Little thought was given to the hostility that these equal citizens consequently encounter in their neighbourhoods,” he argued.
Bishop de Chickera called for Sri Lanka to adopt an “ethos of democratic pluralism in which dissent will be welcome, diversity respected and minorities treated as equals. Visionary and inclusive leaders and multi cultural schooling will be indispensable for this process. It is as we stop demonising the other and our children associate with each other that we will learn to co-exist,” he said.
Bishop de Chickera told his diocese that while states must possess the right to defend themselves, was “is never the answer.”
The Christian Church had a “part to play in this transformation” of Sri Lanka, and could bring the notion of “restorative justice” to the bargaining table. “This demanding but rewarding shift will enable forgiveness and reconciliation and bring healing to both victim and perpetrator. It breaks the cycle of revenge,” he said.
But whatever course the war took, Christians were “called to demonstrate both repentance and faithfulness in Christ. We must be converted and take on the role of servants, pastors and prophets. It is only then that we will become useful instruments of peace, justice and reconciliation in the Nation,” Bishop de Chickera said.
Bishop’s Sri Lanka plea: CEN 9.05.08 p 5. September 9, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
|Fighting between government troops and Tamil separatists have left the people of Northern Sri Lanka “caught in the cross-fire” of a “never ending war,” the Bishop of Colombo said in a statement released last week.
The Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera urged the government and the forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — the Tamil Tigers, to allow religious leaders to broker a peace agreement, as state diplomatic efforts have so far failed to end the fighting that has left over 65,000 dead since 1983.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
The British headmaster of an Anglican public school in Sri Lanka has been declared a security risk by the government and forced to leave the country.
On May 15, the Sri Lankan government cancelled the visa of Mr. Roderick Gilbert, headmaster of Trinity College, Kandy. A petition filed by the school’s Board of Governors with the Controller General of Immigration has since been rejected without explanation.
Founded by the CMS and modeled upon British public schools, Trinity College is one of Sri Lanka’s leading boy’s schools and has educated the elite of the island nation for over 135 years.
In a statement released last month, the Board of Governors expressed its “full confidence” in Mr. Gilbert and said its “inquiries have revealed no evidence whatsoever of a national security threat to the Government and people of Sri Lanka” from the headmaster.
Mired in a decade’s long civil war between the majority Sinhalese-speaking population and the minority Tamil community, Mr. Gilbert’s expulsion order comes amidst a breakdown in negotiations and heightened political turmoil over newly introduced anti-terror laws that civil liberty advocates say is being abused by the government for partisan political ends.
The “absence of any official and reliable information of the reasons” for the expulsion of Mr. Gilbert made speculation as to the government’s motives unwise, the chairman of the Board of Governors, the Rt. Rev Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala, said on June 9.
While it was “correct that a [second] member of the staff has been arrested and is in custody” under the nation’s anti-terrorism laws, “no charges have been framed against him, as yet,” the bishop said. The school governors would “continue to extend its total co-operation to the authorities to ensure that the national security of our country is maintained” but would continue to fight the headmaster’s deportation.
Ceylon terror denounced: CEN 6.13.08 p 7. June 17, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
|CHURCH leaders in Sri Lanka have denounced the terror campaign that killed 24 and left 80 civilians wounded last week. Since the ceasefire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) broke down on Jan 16 more than 200 civilians have been killed in terror attacks, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports.
“Killing of any human being is unacceptable but the killing of innocent civilians is abominable. We vehemently condemn these acts of wanton violence and terrorism,” a June 9 joint statement from the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops said.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Bishop attacks Sri Lanka violence: CEN 4.18.08 p 6. April 21, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
The Bishop of Colombo has called upon all “right minded people” to condemn the murder of a government minister and over a dozen athletes in Sri Lanka’s latest sectarian terror attack.
On April 6 the minister for roads Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was killed in a bomb blast that also took the lives of a number of athletes, coaches and policemen. “A sporting event planned to build community ended with an abrupt and violent shattering of community,” Bishop Duleep de Chickera said.
Fernandopulle (pictured) and 13 others were killed by a bomb that exploded at the start of a marathon outside Colombo. “This is most likely the work of the LTTE [Tamil Tigers],” Bishop de Chickera said, as it “follows closely on the Fort Railway Station Bombing” in which “several young schoolboy sportsmen from D S Senanayake College were killed.”
“The massacre of the innocents anywhere, benefits no just cause and has no place whatsoever in any agenda for dignity and peace for Sri Lankans,” the bishop said, as “such provocative acts of violence spread fear, suspicion and anger. They further widen the gap between our communities and further reduce whatever chances may have existed for peace conversations.”
In January the ceasefire with the rebels collapsed, and fighting between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil rebels returned. Since 2005 over 8,000 people have died in the fighting and an estimated one million have been displaced.
Bishop de Chickera called upon the government and the rebels to return to the bargaining table and find a negotiated settlement. “No substantial democratic political agenda for peace and development will ever be achieved until this is done,” he said.
Sri Lanka call on freedoms: CEN 3.28.08 p 6. March 31, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Free Speech.
The Bishop of Colombo has denounced government indifference over attacks on the press in Sri Lanka, saying its inaction amounted to collusion with those who sought to stifle a free press.
The statement by Bishop Duleep de Chickera followed a series of politically motivated attacks on reporters and editors of the state controlled Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) television network. Five reporters who were critical of the government’s conduct of the war against Tamil separatists have been seriously injured by unknown assailants. The official police response has been the attacks are unrelated actions by small time hoodlums.
The church has also questioned the March 17 appointment of a retired army general to the post of director of administration of the television network, placing the broadcaster firmly in the hands of the military. Following the army takeover last Monday, police sealed off the station breaking up a threatened strike by staff.
Bishop de Chickera said the “continuing harassment and arrests of media persons are both disturbing and frustrating.”
The “focus of the nation” was now on the “brazen and systematic violence” meted out to reporters questioning the regime, and the “recent arrest and indefinite detention without access to lawyers of a group of journalists associated with a news web site and printing press,” he said.
The failure to stem the assaults was an “indictment against the entire police force.” While the police were quick to locate and arrest “those considered enemies of the State,” the government’s inaction in protecting journalists raised “questions of professional bias.
Anglican priest killed in Sri Lanka: CEN 2.19.08 February 19, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Politics.
|An Anglican priest has become the latest casualty in Sri Lanka’s civil war.
On Feb 17 the Rev. Neil Samson, priest of the diocese of Kurunagla, was shot to death outside his home. At approximately 9:30 in the evening two gunmen riding a motorbike shot the 39-year-old priest and his wife while they were out walking with their family.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Bishop of Colombo February 16, 2008Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Church of Ceylon.
The Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera speaking to the Anglican delegates to the World Council of Churches Assembly in Brazil, Feb 17, 2006
Sri Lanka call for peace: CEN 2.15.08 p 6. February 16, 2008Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
The intensification of the civil war in Sri Lanka has elicited renewed calls for peace from the Anglican Church of Ceylon.
The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera has condemned government air attacks on Tamil villages in northern Sri Lanka sheltering Tamil Tiger rebels, [LTTE] and the LTTE terror bombing campaign targeting Sinhalese civilian.
“The recent spate of calculated mayhem targeted against innocent civilians that collectively killed scores of civilians including school children, and injured many more,” he said on Feb 7, “must be condemned without reservation.”
The terrorist attacks demonstrated a “total disregard” for human life and were “counterproductive” to the cause of Tamil independence. The LTTE attacks were stiffening the resolve of the government not to give in to terrorism and were leading “to the conversion of moderates to extremism,” he said.
He also noted his “great concern” about government air attacks on rebel-controlled bases. Two church run orphanages were in rebel territory he said. These children “live in fear and have nowhere to run except into their bunkers when the planes arrive. Please do everything possible to avoid harming these little ones,” he asked the government.
Bishop de Chickera urged Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds “to remain calm under provocation and to do all we can to strengthen understanding and peaceful coexistence,” between the country’s ethnic communities.
New surge of violence in Sri Lanka denounced: CEN 1.08.08 January 9, 2008Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
| THE BISHOP of Colombo has denounced the escalation of violence in the decades-old civil war in Sri Lanka, which has seen two MPs murdered by terrorists in less than a week.
On Jan 8 the government’s Minister for National Building, DM Dassanayake was killed after his car hit a land mine on the highway heading north of Colombo to the country’s international airport. Last week a prominent Tamil parliamentarian was shot dead in a Hindu temple in the capital.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Free Speech Worry in Sri Lanka: CEN 12.07.07 p 6. December 9, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Free Speech.
The Bishop of Colombo has denounced attacks on opposition newspapers in Ceylon as an assault on free speech and democracy.
On Nov 21 the offices of the English-language newspapers papers the Sunday Leader and Morning Leader and the Sinhala-language Irudina Sinhala were firebombed. President Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka pledged his government would respond forcefully to the attacks.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Ceylon to follow socialism: CEN 11.02.7 p 5. November 2, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, Politics.
|THE SYNOD of the Diocese of Colombo has pledged itself to follow the path of Christian Socialism and create ‘a synthesis between the teachings of Jesus and Karl Marx’(pictured) in its mission and ministry.
Meeting on Oct 19 in Colombo, the diocese’s annual council endorsed a resolution put forward by the Rev SDP Selvan of St. Matthias Church in Thanneerootu and backed by the Bishop, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera that called for a ‘paradigm shift’ in mission and ministry.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Church leaders join in call for Burma action: CEN 10.05.07 p 6. October 5, 2007Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Politics.
Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay of Myanmar (Burma) Photo from Global South Anglican
Church leaders have joined the chorus of support for pro-democracy activists in Burma, adding their voices to the denunciation of the military regime’s crackdown on protesters.
On Friday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the government’s violent attacks upon unarmed protestors, and called for the international community to intensify diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the crisis. The “word is watching” he said.
In a statement released by Downing Street, Mr. Brown said the protesters had been exercising “great bravery” by protesting peacefully. “I had hoped that the Burmese regime would heed the calls for restraint from the international community.
“But once again they have responded with oppression and force. This must cease,” he said on Sept 28.
The Anglican Primate of Burma, Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay of Rangoon told ENI, “We pray for peace and the future of the country.”
Archbishop Si Htay said a meeting had been planned with the country’s Roman Catholic bishops to forge a common front in response to the week of street protests in Rangoon and Mandalay. The Associated Press reported that on Sept 24 over 100,000 protesters led by Buddhist monks filled the streets of Rangoon staging the largest protest in 20 years to military rule.
The Bishop of Colombo, Duleep de Chickera called upon Burma’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, delivering an open letter deploring the violence. “As a fellow religious leader, I wish to express my solidarity with the commendable leadership provided by the Buddhist monks of Myanmar to this mass agitation.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Sept 25 released a statement from Cape Town likening the marches to the non-violent protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“It is so like the rolling mass action that eventually toppled apartheid,” the Nobel laureate said. “We admire our brave sisters and brothers in Burma and want them to know that we support their peaceful protests to end a vicious rule of oppression and injustice.”
Archbishop Tutu, who along with former Czech president Vaclav Havel has led the international campaign to bring Burma before the UN Security Council, called upon the military regime to release jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore the rule of law.
“Victory is assured. They are on the winning side, the side of freedom, justice and democracy,” Archbishop Tutu said.
On Saturday however, the AP reported Rangoon’s streets were empty, with democracy activists awaiting further international support.
Sri Lankan bishop protests: CEN 8.24.07 p 9. August 24, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
THE BISHOP of Colombo, Duleep de Chickera has denounced proposals from the Sri Lankan education ministry for schools to hold rallies in support of a government victory over rebel Tamil forces.
Last month the country’s education ministry ordered schools to celebrate the ‘victory’ of government forces following the capture of the Tamil Tigers’ jungle stronghold in Eastern Ceylon. “The indoctrination of trapped school communities,” Bishop de Chickera said on July 27, “with programmes highlighting images of war and the enemy is a serious violation of the vulnerability and dignity of our children, and must be condemned.”
There were no ‘winners and losers’ in Ceylon’s ethnic civil war between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations, he said.
“The recent escalation of the war agenda and war euphoria through special commemorative events is cause for concern,” he argued. “All who love and care for children, especially parents, educationalists, teachers and religious leaders, should counter this trend”.
Over 70,000 people have died since 1983 in the ethnic strife between separatist Tamil groups in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka and the government. Ethnic Tamils account for 18 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 19 million people, while Sinhalese-speaking people, most of whom are Buddhists, make up 70 per cent of the population.
|Christians must stand apart and become beacons of hope and peace in the midst of war, the Archbishop of Canterbury said during his visit to Sri Lanka yesterday.
Preaching at the Cathedral Church of Christ the King in Kurunegala, Dr Rowan Williams stated: “When we find ourselves in the middle of conflict, of suffering, and even of despair, we as Christians have to say ‘we have food to give’. “And the food that we have to give is the promise that forgiveness is possible, that reconciliation is possible.”
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.