Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Bishop calls for international intervention to stop war

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Vatican City, 11 May 2007 - Catholic Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna is appealing for international assistance to bring peace to war-torn Sri Lanka.

At a meeting with visiting US government officials on 9 May in Jaffna, the Bishop said both parties involved in the fighting are not interested in pursuing meaningful negotiations.

Thousands of civilians, government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed since a 2002 truce gave way to renewed civil war.

Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam said, "Negotiations could only start with the participation of the international community. People of Sri Lanka are against war and have a strong desire for peace."

More than 500,000 people have been made homeless across the island due to war and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Jaffna peninsula in the north has been one of the worst affected areas.

The conflict has its roots in ethnic tension between the Sinhalese majority and the mainly Tamil minority who accuse the government of discrimination.

Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam said, "Arrangements should be made for the minority community to feel they are equal citizens and they have the right of self-determination."

A ceasefire was agreed in 2002 and the rebels dropped their demand for an independent state, settling for regional autonomy. But violence has surged since the end of 2005 and the Tigers have reverted to their original demand for all-out independence.

Caritas in Sri Lankais appealing for close to US$ 4 million to help those affected by the conflict. Caritas works with all affected communities to provide refuge and shelter, basic food and water supplies, work opportunities, education and health for displaced families fleeing in fear from fighting. Caritas is active in assisting 200,000 people.

Caritas urges all parties to the Sri Lankan conflict to commit:

- To immediate de-escalation of the conflict and progress towards a negotiated solution,

- To accept a United Nations-appointed international human rights monitoring mission to effectively monitor violations of humanitarian law,

- To participate in a serious dialogue on constitutional reform that acknowledges the aspirations of all minorities in Sri Lanka.

For more information, contact: Nancy McNally, Tel: +39 06 69879752 Mobile: +39 334 2344 136 mcnally@caritas.va or visit www.caritas.org