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    » 05/28/2012, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Five thousand Catholics, Muslims and Hindus defend Mannar bishop against "vile" accusations

    Melani Manel Perera

    Sri Lanka's Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, a Muslim, accuses Mgr Rayappu Joseph of stirring the Tamil community against Muslims in his region. People from across the country come together to demand an official apology. "No one defends our rights like the bishops," Muslims and Hindus say.

    Mannar (AsiaNews) - More than 5,000 people, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, lay people, members of the clergy and  Senior and junior Tamil politicians, gathered yesterday at the Cathedral of St Sebastian in Mannar to show their support and express their solidarity with Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar (Northern Province), against the "vile comments" of the Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

    In a recent statement in parliament, the minister accused the bishop of stirring the Tamil population in his region against Muslims. He even compared the bishop to the Ven Innamaluwe Sumangala Nayak Thero, a Buddhist monk from the Golden Temple in Dambulla, who in late April backed a group of Buddhists who attacked a mosque.

    With people coming from around Sri Lanka, rally participants stressed the "extraordinary courage" Mgr Joseph puts in everything he does. At the end of the meeting, people appealed to the minister to apologise to the prelate.

    "The minister, a Muslim, should be condemned for his statement," said Makkal Caddar, a retired imam. "We appreciate what the bishop is doing for all the people of Mannar."

    Similarly, for Sister Jacintha, a nun with the Sisters of Charity that represented  the Trincomalee & Batticaloa Diocese, the minister's remarks "undermine harmony in the population."

    "We admire what Mgr Joseph does," said Mano Iankaran Sharma, a Hindu. "His dedication is incredible. He works on behalf of each one of us, Tamil, Sinhalese, Catholics, Hindus or Muslims. I have never seen a Hindu priest do the same."

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    See also

    20/06/2006 SRI LANKA
    Historical Buddhist temple attacked in Sri Lanka
    The government accuses Tamil Tiger rebels who have not yet commented. Last Saturday government forces attacked a church in a Tamil village.

    14/04/2008 SRI LANKA
    Bishops’ Conference calls for an end to violence around the Madhu Shrine
    In a press release sent to government and Tamil Tigers, the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka calls for an end to military operations around the sacred site. It wants the Marian shrine, a pilgrimage destination for the entire population, to be protected. Bishops back the decision to move the statue of Our lady of Madhu, dismissing claims it was under duress by the rebels.

    11/01/2011 SRI LANKA
    Mannar diocese offers proposal for genuine and lasting Tamil-Sinhalese reconciliation
    Bishop Rayappu Joseph and two priests from his diocese submit a report to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), calling for complete transparency on what happened between 2002 and 2009 as a step towards finding an effective and lasting solution to the ethnic conflict.

    18/09/2008 SRI LANKA
    More than a hundred thousand helpless refugees flee fighting between army and Tamil rebels
    The Asian Human Rights Commission releases a damning statement about helpless refugees. Army and rebels are told to respect communication lines and allow “neutral areas” where refugees can find shelter and help.

    08/09/2008 SRI LANKA
    Government and rebels responsible for 94,000 displaced families, says bishop of Mannar
    Monsignor Rayappu levels harsh accusations against both sides involved in the war for depriving people of home and work. Fishermen are in a difficult situation, prevented from going out to the sea at night.



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