Sri Lanka ceasefire in tatters

Civilians have been hit hardest as more than 35,000 people have been displaced in Sri Lanka in the worst violence since the signing of a 2002 "ceasefire" between government and Tamil rebel forces, a Jesuit Refugee Service worker said.

Nisha, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) area coordinator in Muthur, told AsiaNews that more and more civilians are being killed and displaced as army forces and rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE) keep on fighting in eastern Sri Lanka.

An estimated 35,000 people have fled their homes in the latest upsurge of violence, seeking shelter in convents, churches, schools and makeshift camps.

Nisha was staying in a convent in Muthur when shelling started on the night of 1 August. "We were so frightened," she said. "The shelling continued the whole day.

"The Tamil people came to St Anthony's Church, near the convent, for safety. But the church was shelled and a little boy, Aravind, was killed as he was eating his meal.

"Three wounded women were taken to hospital in two ambulances. One ambulance was hit by a shell on the way and the driver's wife was killed. The rest were rescued and send to Batticaloa hospital by the LTTE," she said.

The fighting continued and on 5 August, the people sheltering in the church decided to leave Muthur like everyone else. "We left on foot. On the way there was heavy shelling and we all lay flat on the ground. This happened many times," recalled Nisha.

"We met people coming back who told us the army was not allowing them to proceed. The parish priest of Muthur, Fr Ignatius, and the sisters pleaded with the army to allow us to go further and finally they did."

When the group reached the LTTE area, they were caught in heavy shelling, and "many people who came with us died there."

The clashes in Mutur started on 26 July when the government charged the LTTE with blocking the Mavilaru canal, depriving around 15,000 families of water.

The Tamil Tigers accused the government of using the canal as a pretext to wage all out war against them.

According to official figures, more than 400 people have been killed in the clashes. Many of the victims are civilians.

Catholics tell of their escape from hell in the east (Asia News, 10/8/06)
Respect Human Life, Resume Negotiations For Peace' (UCA News, 10/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jesuit Refugee Service

Troops storm Church as Sri Lanka on brink of war (CathNews, 19/6/06)
Caritas calls for urgent mediation in Sri Lanka (CathNews, 27/4/06)

11 Aug 2006