09/24/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Appeal from Sri Lanka bishops on behalf of war victims

by Melani Manel Perera
The episcopal conference decries the sufferings of the displaced, without shelter or food. And it calls upon the army and the Tamil Tigers to "respect the lives of civilians" and guarantee "humanitarian corridors" in order to move them into more secure areas.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Strong denunciation of the continued suffering of the thousands of refugees displaced by the decades-long conflict between the army and the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE), in a statement from the Sri Lanka bishops' conference (CBCSL), released at the end of the meeting held on September 22.

The document - signed by Bishop Vianney Fernando, head of the CBCSL, and by secretary general Bishop Norbert Andradi - expresses appreciation for "the efforts" made by the government to ensure "food and basic necessities to the refugees", but also recalls the condition of "thousands of people forced to live under the trees", and charges that in many cases "aid does not reach its intended recipients". "Difficulties in transporting essential commodities have resulted in fuel, food, medicine, shelter materials etc. being in short supply", the bishops say. "Education of the children has been disrupted. It was noted that as a result of aerial bombing several innocent civilians have been killed".

The episcopal conference is calling upon the parties in conflict - the army and the LTTE - to "respect the lives of civilians", and is asking representatives of the Tamil Tigers to guarantee a humanitarian corridor "for the refugees", so that they can be transferred "to more secure areas of the country". "We plead that humanitarian laws be respected by everyone, and that institutions such as schools, hospitals and places of worship be carefully avoided in the combat".

The bishops conclude the document by emphasizing that "lasting peace" can be reached only through a "political agreement" that recognizes "human dignity and full equality among citizens", whatever their ethnicity.

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