Bishop of Colombo: "Resist Violence -- Make 2007 a Year of Peace"
The beginning of the year saw several incidents of violence in Sri Lanka, signalling a further deterioration of the unstable security situation there. From that context as he has done for years, my friend, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera speaks a courageous message of hope for peace. I attach his statement in its entirety, so that others of us can begin to get an understanding of what is going on there. How the international community could expand and deepen its engagement in the crisis in Sri Lanka is a question that will occupy our thoughts and discussions early this year.
The vicious violence unleashed against Sri Lankan civilians by Sri Lankans at Iluppaikkadavai, Nittambuwa and Godagama, within the first week of the new year shocked and disturbed an already desperate nation and must be condemned forthright.
The Government of Sri Lanka must take responsibility for the deaths and injuries caused to civilians through the aerial bombing at Iluppaikkadavai . According to reports this is a clear shift from the often propounded stance of restrained and retaliatory strikes, and amounts to an arbitrary act of war. The Government simply cannot expect to claim credibility as a responsible democratic Government by talking peace and waging war at the same time.
Inspite of denials, the finger clearly points at the LTTE for the deaths and injuries of the victims of the bus bombs at Nittambuwa and Godagama. These deliberate and calculated attacks on civilians can easily, and are perhaps meant to, provoke a reaction that leads to war. The LTTE has failed to convince the world that it can change its ways.
Both continuing violent agendas demonstrate the helplessness and vulnerability of civilians when parties with access to weapons adopt violent agendas and refuse to consider more civilised options. They also demonstrate how easily civilians become expendable targets when the “enemy” is illusive or securely protected.
Consequently the people of this country must take note of these serious trends and the propaganda that accompany them. War should not be rationalised and under no circumstances can violence against civilians be justified. The history of our bleeding nation reminds us that unless we all come to our senses, stand for the dignity of life for all and create a shift towards a political resolution we will continue to suffer this type of carnage.
The intimidating war culture and its ever widening tentacles must be transformed. Our children have a birthright to a safe today and an integrated tomorrow. Poverty must be addressed and the poor liberated from their misery. We must draw from our still available moral values and spiritual strength and become the dignified and civilised nation we have the potential to become.
I consequently appeal once again to the President to act for the greater good of all people of all communities. I urge the President to counter the violence of the first week of 2007 by declaring this year as the year of peace; and to immediately declare an unilateral truce, provide relief and humanitarian aid to all trapped communities, and initiate a wise and sincere course of action towards peace conversations. The nation and the world will rally round this healing initiative and make it work. I urge the LTTE to consider the suffering of the Tamil people whose cause it says it advocates, and to reciprocate.
When fighting and destruction exhaust a people we stand at the threshold of reconciliation and peace.
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo
9th January 2007