ASIA/NEPAL - Rebels announce truce in a country which longs for peace. Local Catholic Church recalls the need to settle the problem of displaced persons and refugees

Monday, 5 September 2005

Kathmandu (Fides Service) - The three month truce announced by Maoist rebels is a shot in the arm for Nepal, but solutions must be found for the serious problems of violence and millions of displaced persons, local Catholc Church sources underline.
In a statement issued on 3 September announcing a cease fire the rebels said that three month for three months they will “remain in defence positions” and “refrain from unilateral offensives”. The announcement came after a recent meeting between the rebels and the leaders of the seven main democratic opposition parties to discuss collaboration between opposition and insurgents against King Gyanendra accused of using anti-democratic, authoritarian and repressive methods.
“Nepal is engulfed by conflicts which have produced at least 2 million displaced persons. The problem of internally displaced persons and refugees from Bhutan is an ulterior threat to peace and harmony in Nepal”, said Fr.Varkey Perekatt SJ, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nepal.
About 13,000 people have died in 10 years of insurgency which has had serious consequences for the country. In the last twelve months with the political parities unable to reach agreement the situation has worsened. Fr Varkey said the people are dissatisfied with the government and this gives new impulse to the claims of the anti-royal insurgents who want Nepal to be a republic.
Another problem is the presence in eastern Nepal of numerous political refugees from Bhutan. “Neither government wants to accept these people”, Fr Varkey said.
In the meantime although the situation is relatively calm in and around Kathmandu, tension in the rest of the country remains high despite the announced cease fire. The situation is difficult and the people suffer because of the civil conflict which affects the eastern region of Udayapur and the western region of and Rukum the rebel stronghold.
In recent monthe several international organisations denounced a dangerous lack of respect for human rights in Nepal. The United Nations Commission for Human Rights has said it wants to send a mission to Nepal the assess the level of respect for human rights, reported to be considerably lower than universal standards.
In this context the Catholic community of 7,500 people strives to carry on as usual particularly with its service of education. Catholic schools are open in some areas but because of fighting others are closed for the safety of the children.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/9/2005 righe 29 parole 308)