05/07/2008, 00.00
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Church of Sri Lanka: enlistment of child soldiers continues

by Melani Manel Perera
A report from the justice and peace commission of the diocese of Jaffna denounces the drama of the children driven to enlist by the threats and terror exercised by the army and the rebels. The alarm is over the social repercussions of generations growing up amid violence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is calling attention back to the problem of child soldiers used in the civil war in the northern part of the island, and is attributing responsibility to both the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) and the special forces of the army. A report from the justice and peace commission of the diocese of Jaffna today denounces that many of the victims of the conflict are children: "most joined the militancy without the knowledge of the parents, and making personal decisions, after experiencing harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture and the denial of their educational and other rights".

Those responsible are not only the rebels, with their violent methods, but also the security forces of Colombo, which contribute to creating a climate of terror, working "against the Tamils to silence them through such threats from clamouring for their ethnic rights". The document of the justice and peace commission also blames the propaganda of the government, according to which the targets of the military operations are only the bases of the LTTE, while the media constantly report news of "bombings (taking) place almost daily over or near civilian dwellings and areas resulting in death of and injuries to civilians and destruction of civilian property and possessions. Even the names and addresses of those injured or killed are released in the media and confirmed also by medical authorities".

The report raises the alarm over the future of a society "mentally afflicted" because of the traumas suffered by the new generations.  Many children, the report says, "have painfully told the priests here, that they are unable even to get religious services or almsgiving offered or performed for the repose of their souls as prompted by their faith - all because of the deep fear experienced by them that the security forces will victimize them if they are identified as the relations of even dead cadres. Many others have been known to have been either killed or made to disappear for similar relationships".

Finally, the Church of Jaffna repeats the necessity that the government "take the first step" to declare the area of the Marian shrine of Madhu a "no war zone", and a place of refuge for the many displaced persons in the area.

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See also
President Rajapaksa launches campaign against use of child soldiers
Tamil Tigers are using child soldiers: 6,000 cases in five years
Child illiteracy and child labour are the continent's main social ills
The Church of Mannar asks the local media for accuracy
Bishop of Chennai: nothing can justify the massacre underway in Sri Lanka


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