08/27/2008, 00.00
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Anglican bishop calls attention to civilians caught in crossfire between army and Tamil Tigers

by Melani Manel Perera
The population is caught in a crossfire between the two belligerents, the army and Tamil Tiger rebels. The prelate calls for the establishment of “humanitarian corridors” to deliver aid; he also wants to see an “inter-religious group” set up to confront the emergency situation.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – In a statement Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera said that people in Vanni, an area in the Tamil Tiger-controlled north, are concerned about the situation of constant tension and are afraid that dangers might increase should there be an escalation in violence between the army and rebels fighting for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the same statement he expressed his “solidarity and closeness” to a civilian population under severe distress by a “war that seems to have no end.”

“Unarmed and trapped in this war zone, large numbers of civilians, including children, are caught in an intense cross-fire,” he said. “Thousands are already displaced and can flee only to places of temporary safety,” he added.

The “situation faced by these civilians is even more desperate since they cannot act independently. They are under conflicting pressure from both sides for support [. . .] and fear reprisals if they do not. Their dilemma adds to their suffering. Their voice is silenced with the sound of guns, manipulation and propaganda.”

For him it is necessary that a “collective conscience intervene on behalf of these vulnerable, helpless and harassed Sri Lankans.”

Since both the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE claim they are involved in this war for the liberation of these same civilians it is imperative they jointly invite and assist international organisations to bring aid to the population.

“My Roman Catholic colleague the Bishop of Jaffna, the Rt Rev Thomas Savundaranayagam, has already made this suggestion and it needs to be reiterated. If for some reason these agencies are unable to intervene, then an inter-religious group of leaders must be invited to do so,” Bishop de Chickera said.

Lastly the prelate thanked the government for guaranteeing the delivery of food, infant powered milk, medicines and other essential items to the area.

Since 1983 the conflict between the army and LTTE rebels has caused the death of 65,000 people.

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