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Call for peace in on-going strife in Sri Lanka: CEN 11.21.08 p 5. November 24, 2008

Posted 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.

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