Sri Lankan religious leaders call for end of suffering in Vanni
30 March 2009
As religious leaders, we are extremely concerned about the deteriorating plight of the civilians who are still trapped in the Vanni. Endless debates about the actual numbers trapped or who is primarily to be blamed for their plight are not the most urgent needs at this stage. The immediate and absolutely urgent need is to recognize that this is a very critical humanitarian crisis faced by fellow Sri Lankans. The needs of food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and, above all, physical security of these our sisters and brothers and children need to be addressed without delay. From all independent reports available, the plight of these trapped civilians has become absolutely desperate. These are people who over the past several years have lived under severe deprivations and restrictions and have in recent months been displaced several times over. We urge that all sides recognize the helplessness and powerlessness of these desperate Sri Lankans to change their circumstances or voice their fears and concerns. We earnestly appeal to all concerned to set aside debates on secondary issues and take immediate steps to alleviate their suffering.
People of Vanni have been uprooted 12 times in the conflict.
We are grateful that a seven mile long strip has been declared by the Government of Sri Lanka as “no-fire” zone. We trust that negotiations can be facilitated to ensure that there is bilateral agreement for this “no-fire” zone and for the avoidance of the use of heavy artillery and multi-barrel shelling in the areas where civilians reside. We are also thankful that arrangements have been made for the sick and the injured to be transported by ship to Trincomalee for treatment. But in the prevailing desperate plight of civilians in the Vanni, we appeal to all parties, in the name of our religions and in the name of our common humanity, to have the humility and the courage to agree to the following:
The Rt Revd Dr Thomas Savundranayagam, Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna
The Rt Revd Dr Rayappu Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar
The Rt Revd Norbert Andradi, Roman Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Anglican Bishop of Kurunagala
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo