OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Bishops and religious launch appeal for Sri Lanka: “Stop the fighting and protect civilians.”

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – There is an urgent need to end the fighting and protect Tamil civilians. This is the exhortation being made by the Bishops and religious of Australia who, in unison with the Bishops of Sri Lanka, are making an appeal to the international community to end the fighting that is causing so much suffering for citizens of Tamil ethnic background, a humanitarian crisis that has been underway for several months now.
The message observes that over 90,000 citizens are suffering from trauma, malnutrition, or have been left homeless, living amidst inhumane conditions. There have been hundreds of victims and wounded in the fighting and bombing on both sides, from the national army and the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Violence reigns in the area and the fighting has intensified. “Around 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the conflict area and exposed to the fighting,” the text says.
In spite of the efforts of the non-governmental organizations and the Church, not all of the crisis' victims are being reached and the situation continues worsening, the note observes with concern.
Echoing the words of the Bishops of Sri Lanka, whom they offer moral and material support, the Bishops of Australia affirm that “lasting peace can be realised only through a negotiated political solution which recognizes human dignity and equality ensuring the legitimate rights and aspirations of all citizens.”
The Australian Bishops' Conference has added on another 10 million dollars in humanitarian aid to the 23.5 million dollars sent in December 2008 to Sri Lanka, in response to the crisis. The funds will be sent to Catholic organizations and Caritas working in the area with the Tamil refugees.
They also ask the Australian government to take a clear stance in the international community in working to end the fighting and return to the negotiation table.
“We pray for all of those affected by this terrible conflict and for their families and loved ones, many of whom, we know have settled in Australia. We pray also for those who are seeking to provide humanitarian relief in these most difficult circumstances,” the statement concluded. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2009)