12/24/2004, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Yes, to peace and justice; no to death penalty, says Colombo bishop

Colombo (AsiaNews) – In his Christmas message, Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo, urges Sri Lankans to broaden the space for peace and justice in the country by freely opening themselves up to others.

"When Jesus was born," he writes, "no place on earth would take him. Only humble animals shared their stable with the Son of God who had come into this world to bring men justice without asking anything for himself".

For this reason, the Bishop invites ordinary citizens and political leaders to follow Jesus' example and take responsibility for building peace in a country torn by the violence of Tamil rebels and religious clashes.

To the authorities, he asks they overcome divisions and personal interests to work "united in favour of justice". "As representatives of the people," he said, "you must be paragons of integrity, discipline, simplicity and self-denial whereas the thirst for affluence and accumulation inevitably leads to the neglect of public responsibility, and erodes law, order and good governance. It is on these foundations only that [. . .] policies to combat violence and poverty will grow".

Speaking about the justice system and the government's attempts to reinstitute the death penalty, the Bishop said that "judicial killing is no guarantee of justice and a safer world. What our country mostly needs is protected space for judicial investigations [. . .] and prompt prosecutions.  The judiciary and police in particular should be given the space to perform their duties without fear or favour, and [they must also be] held accountable."

In his message, Bishop de Chickera also urges religious authorities to stimulate spiritual values and inter-faith cooperation. "We must create spaces for dialogue by removing mutual suspicions and improving our work".

A few days ago—December 19—a Catholic church was attacked and set on fire in Colombo. A Buddhist fundamentalist group is suspected.

In his message, the Bishop also appeals to the population at large urging them to "seek out and meet the other irrespective of his or her class, religion or ethnic background to set on a journey together towards peace and goodwill for all."

"It is the space we make for others in our politics, economics and religion that will finally test the credibility of our cultures and transform us under the reign of God."

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