Sri Lanka church leaders call for end to violence
Both Protestant and Catholic church leaders in Sri Lanka have issued a strong appeal for peace with justice following the recent escalation of violence in the country.
On Friday a packed bus narrowly escaped a mine blast in Sri Lanka as truce monitors pointed the finger at Tamil Tiger rebels for a wave of deadly bombings and urged action to halt a return to war.
Officials said the bus in eastern Trincomalee avoided the full impact of the blast while two more 'surface-mounted' mines were found in the district a day after a similar bomb killed 10 sailors.
The attack at Thambalagamuwa came as the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) questioned denials from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that they were behind the bombings.
But the mission also faulted Colombo for not acting against government paramilitary units who target mainstream Tamil cadres.
Churches have been caught in the middle of the political violence. But they are also working to combat communalism and to seek a peaceful way towards a just settlement.
The Catholic, Anglican, Protestsnt and ecumenical statement reads as follows:
Stop the Spiral of Violence - A Christian appeal
The people of this country must take serious note that the culture of violence is spreading dangerously and indiscriminately. No one seems to be able to stop the spiral of killing for killing. No one even takes responsibility for wanting to stop this trend. Different but equally tragic incidents are reported almost daily from various parts of the country, and the North and East in particular. As if by design, the centre shifts from Jaffna, to Colombo, to Batticaloa, to Mannar, and now after a period of some calm, to Trincomalee.
The recent deaths of young students in Trincomalee have filled the hearts of people with deep sorrow and even indignation. Some newspapers reported that the post mortem verdict stated that they had died of gunshot injuries. Other versions claim that they died of a hand grenade explosion. The truth will emerge only through an independent commission acceptable to all parties. But whatever the truth, this heinous act that has snuffed the lives of young men in their prime must be condemned without reservation by all just and peace loving persons.
These were Sri Lankan young men who died in an area under the control of the Government of Sri Lanka. Consequently we welcome the decision of the President to inquire into these killings. We urge that this inquiry be comprehensive and that the families, friends and teachers of these young men as well as competent forensic experts be heard and the public informed of its findings. For a start the post mortem report should be released. Such immediate and impartial action brings some sense of justice to loved ones who can never be fully compensated for their loss. To know how and why their sons were killed helps the process of mourning and healing.
An equally heinous act that requires unreserved condemnation is the very recent attack on the naval craft off the Trincomalee coast that has taken the lives of at least thirteen sailors. This is a blatant violation of the Cease Fire Agreement and the LTTE simply cannot disclaim responsibility for this and the recent spate of killings that have taken the lives of scores of service personnel. We appreciate the overall restraint shown thus far by the Services and urge that they and the Government of Sri Lanka would continue this trend, in spite of the recurring and highly provocative nature of these attacks.
We reiterate and totally agree with the several voices that have condemned all killings whether innocent civilians, service personnel, LTTE cadres or cadres of other groups. We similarly call for an end to these continuing and senseless killings in our country. The killing of any human is a judgement on us all. Whatever the rationale or ideology, any killing is an indication of our failure to live with differences and our inability to find a non-violent, inclusive and civilised way to deal with grievance and conflict. We are sorry that decades of bloodshed, deprivation and suffering have not provided the counter spirituality and resolve to respect human life and the dignity of our brothers and sisters of the other ethnic group, religion or political ideology.
We implore the President and all leaders of political parties and the leader of the LTTE to take immediate steps to stop this spiral of violence, and in the name of our common humanity to announce their stance and the action they propose taking. Since this will only bring interim relief, we also urge them to address the location stalemate and sit at the peace table without delay. To be magnanimous generally is a quality of leadership; to be magnanimous in conflict and animosity is a sign of Statespersonship. Magnanimity alone will provide the compromise required of all sides if this stalemate is to be broken.
We assure the leaders and people of this country of our unstinted support and prayers in these endeavours.
Catholic Bishops' Conference:
Rt Rev Dr Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy & President, Catholic Bishops' Conference
Rt Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar & Vice President, Catholic Bishop's Conference
Most Rev Dr Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo
Rt Rev Dr Frank Marcus Fernando, Bishop of Chilaw
Rt Rev Dr Thomas Savundranayagam, Bishop of Jaffna
Rt Rev Dr Kingsley Swamipillai, Bishop of Trincomalee/Batticaloa
Rt Rev Dr Raymond Peiris, Bishop of Kurunegala
Rt Rev Dr Marius Peiris, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo
Rt Rev Dr Winston Fernando, Bishop of Badulla
Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony, Bishop of Galle
Rt Rev Dr Norbert Andradi, Bishop of Anuradhapura
Rt Rev Dr Valence Mendis, Coadjutor Bishop of Chilaw
Very Rev Fr Damian Fernando, Administrator, Diocese of Ratnapura
Heads of Churches of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka:
Rev Kingsley Perera, President, Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya & Chairperson, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
Rt Rev Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala
Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
Rev W P Ebenezer Joseph, President, Methodist Church
Rev C N Jansz, President, Dutch Reformed Church
Rev K Piyadasa, Moderator, Presbyterian Church
Rev P R Navendrananugoolan, Moderator's Commissary, Church of South India ? Jaffna Diocese
Colonel Roy Frans, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army
Rev Dr Jayasiri Peiris, General Secretary, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
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