As he did before, Bishop de Chickera is calling for help, freedom and equality for Tamil refugees. For months now he has insisted on the need for justice for the thousands of people who have been living month after month in refugee camps, in very tragic circumstances (see “Stop the lies about Tamil refugees, send them home, Anglican bishop says,” by Melani Manel Perera, AsiaNews, 29 September 2009).
The meeting between clergy and the faithful from the Diocese of Colombo also gave the prelate an opportunity to mention 125 Anglican families stuck in camps in Vanni. “We must never forget that those who crossed over are Sri Lankans; and that they crossed over at the invitation of their government to be liberated,” he said.
Still, the controversy over conditions in refugee camps and the slow pace of resettlement back home continues.
For the prelate, once they are freed, refugees should “receive equal opportunities for education, development and growth.” For them, liberation will require that “they should not be hindered or harmed by any ideology or force that might want to exploit or suppress them all over again.”
For Rev de Chickera, the “military defeat of the LTTE cannot be expected to resolve our national crisis.” On the contrary, Sri Lanka needs to heal from the deep wounds that have marked its history since independence. Since then, “unimaginable violence has devalued human life and dignity. Layer upon layer of intimidation and discrimination have created deep social suspicion and antagonism,” he lamented.
For the Anglican Church, 2009 and 2010 must be devoted to ‘National Reconciliation and Healing’.
In light of the urgency for the nation’s moral and civil renaissance, the bishop wants the Anglican Church to boost relations with other religions because “they have a role to play in this work.” Indeed, working with other Christian denominations is so important that he emphasised the need for close cooperation with them.
Invited to the meeting as a special guest, Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam, Catholic bishop of Jaffna, was in the audience listening to him.
For de Chickera, the faithful and the clergy must promote in their communities a society that allows Sri Lankans to come to terms with the “mistakes of the past” and nurture “behaviours that respect and are inclusive of others.”