06/17/2021, 13.19
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Sri Lankan Christian leaders show solidarity with the poor and the victims of COVID-19

by Melani Manel Perera

Card Ranjith and the leaders of the Sri Lankan National Christian Council (NCC) stand with the weakest groups in society. The NCC slams north-south “vaccine apartheid”. The Archbishop of Colombo comes out against the government price hike. At this stage it is necessary to protect the poor and the affected people.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, and the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCC) urge the government to support those who are facing economic and social hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problems triggered by the health emergency and soaring prices are compounded by the devastating damage to the environment caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pearl, which threatens the fishing industry and the livelihoods of many families.

In a statement, NCC leaders highlight the suffering of a nation and a people with “many advantages”, such as a highly literate society, a comprehensive and extensive public health system, and a strong mass media.

Yet, more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, as a nation Sri Lanka still lacks “a suitably designed public health response.”

The country’s “well-staffed and highly skilled health infrastructure does not seem to be at the centre of the pandemic response.”

Christian leaders are also very critical of the government’s handling of the vaccination campaign, which lacks justice and fairness, both locally and internationally.

“We also deplore the vaccine apartheid between the global north and south in the distribution of vaccines,” said the NCC.

What is more, amid the local and global health crisis, government authorities have engaged in visibly “anomalous” behaviour.

This includes the use of counterinsurgency and sedition mechanisms against activists, intellectuals and artists, as well as attempts to curtail the work of religious and social service organisations.

The death toll among suspects in police custody is rising, the authorities seem indifferent to investigating the 2019 Easter Sunday explosions, and various underprivileged groups in society, like fishermen and farmers, are left to cope alone with hardships.

Card Ranjith, the country's most authoritative Catholic cleric, has spoken out about the problems of fishing communities living in the coastal area of the Western Province.

The prelate notes that, due to the restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, many locals have not been able to work or move to places more favourable for their activity.

Fishing communities will be the most impacted by the worst damage caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pearl container ship off Sri Lanka’s west coast last month.

“The damage to the marine environment and fisheries is incalculable,” said Card Ranjith. “These fishermen, whose livelihoods have been hit by all this, are now facing three catastrophes due to the increase in the prices of essential fuels such as kerosene, petrol and diesel.”

Addressing government authorities, the prelate stressed that “If it is necessary to increase fuel prices, it should not have been done at a time when the people have fallen into such a catastrophe”.

Lastly, the cardinal urges the government to “take the necessary steps to protect the affected people and the poor.”

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