01/18/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Christian leaders slam escalating violence against civilians

by Melani Manel Perera
Sri Lanka’s Bishops’ Conference and the Anglican bishop of Colombo express concern over last Wednesday’s bombing in Buttala that killed 27, al civilians. They call on both government and rebels to put a stop to the violence and go back to talks. Instead President Rajapakse asks for patience in order to launch a final offensive.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) and the Anglican bishop of Colombo, Rev Duleep de Chickera, issued statements firmly condemning all attacks against the civilian population. In their respective press releases they urgently call on all parties to go back to the negotiating table.

Christian leaders spoke out following an attack on Wednesday against a bus in Buttala, southern Sri Lanka, which left 27 people dead, all civilians. Children were among the 60 injured.

On that same day the government officially pulled out of the 2002 cease-fire agreement with Tamil Tiger rebels, which both sides had in any event stopped respecting for some years.

We strongly urge both the Government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that there be a cessation of hostilities without any further delay,” read the press release signed by CBCSL chairman Mgr Vianney Fernando.

“[V]iolence only begets violence giving way to the loss of so many innocent lives and so much pain, suffering and destruction. We must urgently return to the negotiating table, the only way that leads to lasting peace and prosperity for all.”

In his statement to the press Colombo’s Anglican bishop said about the same, adding that “all communities and people of all faiths” must “rise above such provocative acts of violence” and the “LTTE [must] immediately refrain from any further acts of violence against innocent civilians.”

Colombo immediately blamed the rebels for the Buttala attack, but civilians are also targeted in areas under the control of Sri Lanka’s army which recaptured areas in the eastern part of the country once under rebel control. Currently government troops are involved in an offensive in the north.

Meanwhile Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has called on the population to be patient ahead of what he has labelled a final push to wipe out the rebels.

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