10/05/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka's religious to President: Free the Tamil refugees

by Melani Manel Perera
Nuns and religious, the promoters of the 'Ministry of Presence’ in refugee camps, write to Rajapaksa. They recognize the commitment of the Government for the IDP’s, but remark on "the long wait to return to their homes and loved ones is the heavy price paid by these tormented people”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The religious of Sri Lanka committed to helping Tamil refugees have demanded that President Mahinda Rajapaksa release the over 200 thousand Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from refugee camps in the North of the Country, where they are suffering "torment".   

 

The Center for Society & Religion (CSR) and the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) promoters of the so-called "ministry of presence" among IDPs, sent President of Sri Lanka a letter in which they show their appreciation for the government’s work to assist refugees to date, but in which they also demand a fast solution to the refugee emergency and reiterate the extreme conditions of stress and frustration in which the people are forced to live.   

 

Fr. Rohan Silva, Director of CSR, hopes that "the president responds positively to the request" sent on September 30. The Omi missionary explains that the two sponsoring organizations appeal to the authorities "as religious and as citizens of Sri Lanka" who want to give "voice to the voiceless and defend" their rights and their freedom.   

The CSR Director explains to AsiaNews that "through the 'Ministry of presence' our sisters and our brothers are tirelessly working to alleviate suffering and pains of the refugees and working to ensure an education for children living in refugee camps”.   

“The long wait to return to their homes and loved ones - continues to appeal - is exacting a high price from these tormented people” and it recalls that" in places like Kallimoddai and Sirukkandal refugees have been imprisoned there for more than 18 months. "   

The religious cite the country's constitution, and Article 14 that guarantees all citizens "freedom of movement and residence in Sri Lanka." Promoters of the "ministry of presence" stress the importance of the government's decision, made known on September 9, to allow IDPs who have relatives willing to house them, leave the refugee camps. They hope that all refugees who wish to leave the centres will be allowed to do so.   

CSR and CMRS are very worried about the conditions of "alienation" and "depression" among refugees forced to live in the camps and remind the President that "they only want to put behind them the tragic experience of war and begin a new life”.

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