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» 02/04/2009
SRI LANKA - VATICAN
Rajapaksa to apostolic nuncio: get priests out of conflict zone
by Melani Manel Perera
The religious live with the hundreds of refugees in the four districts that are still in the theater of conflict. The government says that victory over the Tamil Tigers is close, and is celebrating the 61st anniversary of independence by announcing an imminent peace. The United States, the European Union, Japan, and Norway are asking the Tamil rebels to surrender. The hospital of Pudukkudiyiruppu has been attacked for the fifth time in three days.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The government of Sri Lanka wants the Catholic priests present in the areas of fighting to go to the buffer zones under army control, taking the civil population with them.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself has made the request to Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to the country, on the occasion of their meeting on February 2, at Temple Trees. The president asked the pontifical representative to inform all the religious present in the area of fighting between Tamil rebels and government forces. The Catholic priests and sisters are living with the refugees in the districts of Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, and Kilinochchi. Rajapaksa says that, if they heed the request to move to the areas under the control of the military, they will contribute to the government's effort to help the population in the north, and to free it from the oppression of terrorism.

Meanwhile, military operations continue in the area around Mullaittivu, and Colombo says that within a few days, the rebel forces will be defeated. The government continues to dispute the number of refugees reported by the humanitarian organizations (Colombo says that there are 113,800 of these, as opposed to the 230-250,000 as stated by the UN and Red Cross), and news has come from the hospital of Pudukkudiyiruppu in Vanni of the fifth bombing in three days: 12 have reportedly been killed in the latest attack. The Red Cross says that it has been told by the government to evacuate the hospital and abandon the building.

Meanwhile, today the country is celebrating the 61st anniversary of its independence, acclaiming its victories over the Tamil Tigers, proclaiming the imminent arrival of peace, and announcing a new era of freedom and harmony among the ethnic groups.

In his address to the nation, the president has invited the Sri Lankans who have emigrated to return to their country, but the enthusiasm of the institutions, including the majority of Buddhist monks, is not echoed in the various areas of civil society, and is raising violent criticism on the part of human rights activists and the population in the northern part of the country.

Sarath Fernando, head of the Movement of National Land & Agriculture Research, tells AsiaNews: "The desire for peace is being used to win a war against the desire of Tamil and Muslim people, who aspire to have their dignity, culture, and independence as ethnic communities who have lived in the country for a long time."

The archbishop of Colombo, Oswald Gomis, says that "the time has come to restore the rule of law in our country. Both in the north and the south, people should feel free and be able to exercise the freedom that is their birthright."

Fr. Steevan Singarayar, of the missionary order Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, says that "Today by force we are trying to celebrate. By killing our own people we try to find glory in the defeat of our own brothers and sisters. It is obviously a day celebrated only by Sinhalese. The Tamils have no hope for tomorrow. Let the international community and Indian government help the Tamils to find a solution and celebrate freedom with dignity and pride."

Meanwhile, the international community is asking the Tamil Tigers to surrender, and is calling for an immediate temporary ceasefire from both sides of the conflict. On February 3, the United States, Europe, Japan, and Norway published a document coordinated by U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and British foreign minister David Miliband.

The four countries had directed the 2003 Tokyo international conference on the development of Sri Lanka. Now they "call on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to discuss with the government of Sri Lanka the modalities for ending hostilities, including the laying down of arms, renunciation of violence, acceptance of the government’s offer of amnesty; and participating as a political party in a process to achieve a just and lasting political solution."


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See also
02/10/2009 SRI LANKA
Religious personnel under Wanni bombings
by Melani Manel Perera
01/23/2009 SRI LANKA
Columbo army creates safe zone for civilians fleeing war
by Melani Manel Perera
02/05/2009 SRI LANKA
Apostolic nuncio: priests will stay with people in conflict zone
by Melani Manel Perera
11/20/2006 SRI LANKA
Government to reopen road to Jaffna . . . for the time being
12/19/2008 SRI LANKA
Bishops request Christmas ceasefire. Sri Lankan government says no
by Melani Manel Perera

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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