Catholic Church in Sri Lanka request to protect minority rights

Colombo, Srilanka, May 21, 2009 – The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has made several petitions to the government in Colombo, following the national celebration of the end of the war, assuring that, at the dawn of this new era without violence the Church will do her part to build reconciliation and peace. Among the Church's requests are: to resolve the matter of the Tamil refugees with haste; protect minority rights for ethnic and religious groups; take measures for ensuring a “fair peace.”

In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo affirms that “the war would end only on the day that we grow in nationhood realizing that we are all one people in one country with equal rights.”

The nation has realized in the years of conflict and suffering, that it is “a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community. As such we are now left with the great task of nation-building forgetting our ethnic, political and religious differences,” the Archbishop said.

Archbishop Gomis continued: “It is imperative that there be a political formula that will inspire confidence and promote a sense of belonging among the minority groups in the country. We have to leave the sad and bitter memories of the past three decades and look positively and optimistically towards the future in hope. All of us have to share the blame for our division and forgive each other. We should have the humility and wisdom to learn from the sad experiences of that past. It is then, and only then, that we could build nationhood that will bring true peace and prosperity to our beloved country - Sri Lanka. Let us always remember that united we will flourish but divided we will perish. May Sri Lanka be a land where unity, equality, and fraternity reign supreme!”

The Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Norbert Andradi, OMI, told Fides yesterday that “the Church will do her part for a future of peace and unity in the country”.

Caritas Sri Lanka has also made an appeal to the government in Colombo, asking that they address these three main issues: assistance to the thousands of refugees who have suffered months of war; providing homes for the refugees and homeless, helping them to return to a stable economic status and normal life; establishment of a “fair peace” that takes into account the demands of all Sri Lankan citizens, no matter their ethnic origin.

Caritas is especially working to provide for the Tamil refugees who have been victims in the government's attacks on the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who have surrendered after 25 years of conflict.

Caritas Director in Sri Lanka, Fr. Damien Fernando, after having seen the refugee camps, declared: “We need to see an urgent improvement in the conditions in the camps. People in them don't have the food, medical supplies, and the security they need. Families must be reunited. The government needs to take the initiative to speed up its plans to resettle the people in the camps back to their homes.”


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