07/20/2016, 14.13
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Church against drug use in Sri Lankan schools

by Melani Manel Perera

The Archdiocese of Colombo calls for broad partition in mass rally on 30 July. Drug abuse is rapidly increasing even among Catholic students. The island nation has about 45,000 heroin users as well as 200,000 cannabis users. It is a transit point for drug trafficking originating in India.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Drug abuse among young people is becoming a major problem in Sri Lanka.

The local Catholic Church is planning a protest march for 30 July against drug use in the country’s schools. Even those run by the Catholic Church are not immune.

Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, said that Catholics "must make their voices heard" and appealed to institutions, politicians, educators and religious leaders to fight drug abuse among young people.

According to the National Dangerous Drugs and Devices Control Board, there are about 45,000 heroin users and 200,000 cannabis users in the country. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people become drug addicts each year.

Anti-drug trafficking organisations also noted that Sri Lanka has become a transit point for drugs from India.

Last week four people, including three Sri Lankans, were arrested at Ramanathapuram railway station, near Rameswaram (in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu), with two kilograms of heroin.

Fr Neville Bernard, principal at the Vidayalaya Basilica school in Ragama, outside Colombo, said that he caught several pupils using heroin and marijuana at his school.

The headmaster explained that it is extremely "easy to peddle drugs at the school, even among girls. The traffickers use them to carry drugs into the classrooms, hidden in their shoes. School authorities must be ever more watchful.”

Fifteen students were caught taking drugs and were sent to a rehabilitation programme. "Together with the police, we organised a campaign to raise awareness about drugs (and their bad effects), but the problem among students persists,” the clergyman explained.

The archbishop of Colombo also noted that many students were caught with drugs from Kerala. For this reason, he invited all 39 parishes in his archdiocese to join the protest march.

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