ASIA/SRI LANKA - New year, an opportunity to forget the past, stop fighting and forgive! Sinhalese new year prompts common call for peace from civil and religious leaders

Friday, 15 April 2005

Colombo (Fides Service) - Civil and religious organisations in Sri Lanka voiced the wish that New Year’s Day April 13, (Sinhalese new year), would mark the start of an era of peace and reconciliation. In Sri Lanka there is an ancient tradition to celebrate the first harvest. The situation of the country is still one of stalled negotiations between the government and Tamil minority separatists in the north the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, demanding a federal system of government with self administration for the Tamil population in the north. Civil war started in 1983 and has cost the lives of at least 65,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Two years ago a cease fire agreement was reached but the long hoped-for peace agreement has yet to be signed.
The call for peace was endorsed by the president of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga. In an address to the nation she spoke of “about 40.000 citizens dead and thousands of other who lost all their belonging in the tsunami. We cannot go on living in anguish. We must make this New Year’s Day the beginning of reconstruction and reconciliation ”.
The president underlined that according to the teaching of the ancestors, the new year is an opportunity to “forget the past and ask for forgiveness”, and she called on the Islanders to unite to rebuild the country devastated by the tsunami which called “Sinhalese and Tamils, Buddhist and Hindus, Christians and Muslims to unite and work together”.
The call for peace and reconciliation was supported by all the political parties and also by all religious leaders and the civil society.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/4/2005 righe 26 parole 277)