ASIA/SRI LANKA - The Bishop of Jaffna: "Our ministry is reconciliation"

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "In Sri Lanka, our ministry as Bishops and Christians is essentially that of reconciliation, which is the main urgency that the country lives": says to Fides Agency His Exc. Mgr. Thomas Emmanuel, Bishop of Jaffna, in the Vatican with the other Bishops of Sri Lanka, for an ad limina apostolorum visit. The nation, torn apart for almost 30 years by a civil war, still lives the rift between the majority group, the Sinhalese (75% of the population) and the largest minority group, the Tamils (about 11% of the population), who live in the North and East of the island. Five years after the end of the conflict (1983-2009), the Bishop, who leads a diocese in the Tamil area, said: "As a Church, we argue that a political solution is urgently needed, after the end of the conflict: we expect and hope this to happen on behalf of the central government for the area and for the Tamil population".
The solution could be that of a federal type of autonomy with the devolution of some administrative powers.
"In meetings with various dicasteries of the Holy See, each of us Bishops - Bishop Emmanuel told Fides - presented his diocese and also spoke of the difficulties that we encounter today in pastoral work. In Jaffna we bear the marks of three decades of war: my diocese was the epicenter of the conflict. It was hard to be instruments of non-violence in the midst of a bloody armed conflict that claimed thousands of victims".
The Bishop explains to Fides: "The biggest challenge today for my diocese is the care of the refugees who, at the end of the war were 300 thousand. They need a decent life. People are traumatized from having lived so much violence, seen killings, death. Today, we work hard for reconciliation, accompanying people to overcome this phase and to have faith in God who is Providence".
" The government has a triumphalist tone against terrorism, maintains a strong military presence in the North, does not show empathy and sorrow for civilian victims: this would be necessary, because we are citizens of the same country. Solidarity and mutual acceptance are fundamental: we have to live together in this little town, freeing it from division and hatred, growing in harmony. This is the only hope for Sri Lanka. The Church has a prophetic role in this process".
Mgr. Emmanuel reports: "We have asked the Holy Father to use his authority and his moral influence to ask the government to find a political solution that brings harmony and equality in society. Pope Francis has asked us to be faithful to our ministry and to take care of the priests and the faithful. He encouraged us to have hope". The Bishop concludes: "Coming to Rome is always a profound experience of faith. We were all impressed by Pope Francis’ simplicity and his love for the mission. We look forward to having him in Sri Lanka". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/05/2014)