Sr Lankan Christians appeal against shelling of civilians

By staff writers
December 19, 2006

Mounting casualties among displaced civilians in what the United Nations says is indiscriminate shelling in the war raging in Sri Lanka's east, have spurred churches to join protests demanding an end to the shelling in civilian areas - writes Anto Akkara for Ecumenical News International.

"We have been repeatedly urging both parties to end this shelling," Roman Catholic priest the Rev. T. Sritharan Sylvester, director of Caritas Batticaloa, told Ecumenical News International on 15 December from his office.

Sylvester said that since 28 November 2006, "We have not even been able to distribute food as roads have been closed."

The Rev S. Jeyanesan, Batticaloa coordinator of the Jaffna diocese of the Church of South India, which has congregations in Sri Lanka, said conditions for displaced people were worsening every day.

He noted: "Many of them are living under trees during the heavy [monsoon] rains. They are scared of taking shelter in any building due to fears of shelling."

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said in a statement on 14 December 2006: "Indiscriminate shelling by both sides against civilian targets has resulted in a great deal of suffering."

Coomaraswamy added: "Attacks on schools and hospitals are clear violations of international humanitarian law."

More than 3,500 civilians, members of government security forces and combatants of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been killed during 2006 in renewed fighting on the Indian Ocean island.

A 2002 ceasefire brokered by Norway has all but collapsed since Mahinda Rajapakse won the November 2005 presidential election with the support of Sinhala nationalist parties.

With more than 35,000 civilians trapped in the eastern war front, the UN official urged the government "to secure humanitarian access to the population" and the Tamil rebels to "stop placing its military hardware in civilian areas".

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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