Caritas calls for urgent mediation in Sri Lanka

Caritas Internationalis has warned that violence in Sri Lanka could escalate into a "second tsunami" and called upon the international community to urgently mediate between the government and rebel forces.

On 10 April a landmine attack in northern Sri Lanka killed seven people, including two Caritas aid workers. Two other Caritas workers were injured in the attack. The government blamed the rebel Tamil Tigers for the attack.

"Recently we buried two Caritas workers ... just two of the mounting toll of deaths from the recent upsurge in violence," said Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Duncan MacLaren from the organisation's secretariat in Vatican City.

"Despite the killings, both sides must realise that violence only begets violence and a negotiated political settlement is the only solution," he said. "We encourage the international community to mediate between the parties and to urge them to sit around the negotiating table without prior conditions."

Mr MacLaren pointed out that any conflict or the outbreak of all-out war would vastly hinder the efforts still being made to rehabilitate communities affected by the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

"Already schools are reporting a fall in the number of pupils attending because of the conflict," he said. "In the Trincomalee district, a further 2,000 people have been displaced and Caritas is active in assisting the people in camps with food and other non-food items. Because of security reasons, our access to tsunami-affected areas is being increasingly made more difficult."

He continued: "A second 'tsunami' of outright war will destroy the few gains the victims of nature's tsunami have had and in the end will result in further misery and impoverishment for all parties.

"Just as the tsunami did not distinguish between Singhalese and Tamil, Christian, Buddhist, Moslem or Hindu, so war in the end does the same."

Caritas Internationalis will hold a major international "Caritas Peace Forum" looking at its peace-building and reconciliation work worldwide from 26-28 June in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo.

According to the Indian Catholic, the Tamil Tigers launched an armed struggle for a separate Tamil state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka in 1983. The government signed a cease-fire agreement on 22 February 2002.

By then, up to 80,000 people had died and a million had been displaced by the conflict. Peace talks followed, but the Tamil Tigers withdrew from those talks in April 2003 after six rounds of discussions.

Caritas Calls for Urgent International Mediation in Sri Lanka (Caritas Internationalis 26/4/06)
Sri Lanka Church Condemns Suicide Blast, Hopes For Peace (Indian Catholic/UCAN 26/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka appears to be heading back to civil war (ABC Radio The World Today 26/4/06)
Government bombards Tigers; the church's concerns (AsiaNews.it 26/4/06)
Caritas Calls for Urgent International Mediation in Sri Lanka (Reuters 26/4/06)
Catholic youth complain church not giving them enough attention (Catholic Online/UCAN 20/4/06)
Peace in Sri Lanka vital for successful rehabilitation of tsunami-affected communities (Caritas Internationalis 22/2/06)

27 Apr 2006