Sri Lankan bishops call for Christmas truce

December 18th, 2008 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 18 (IANS) The Catholic and Anglican bishops of Sri Lanka have urged the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to declare a truce during Christmas and the New Year to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the island.Describing Christmas as “the world festival of peace”, the bishops from Colombo and the embattled northern region requested both sides that there should be no fighting during this period.

“It is this spirit of Christmas that compels us as Christian leaders of the country to urge the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to declare a truce to include Christmas and the New Year,” a statement by the bishops said.

“We trust that our appeal will be treated with dignity by both sides and urge the government to take the initiative in setting up this truce,” it said, adding such an initiative will be seen the world over as “a sign of political maturity and generosity”.

“Even though temporary, such a truce will bring immense relief to the people in the LTTE controlled areas of Wanni,” the bishops said.

They also pointed out that declaration of such a truce would enable the Christians in these areas to worship and engage in their religious practices with less anxiety, as well as “bring some respite to the war weary soldiers and cadres and some peace of mind to their parents and loved ones”.

“We also earnestly appeal to both parties to seriously consider setting up safe zones for civilians with the assistance of the Red Cross, and urge that these arrangements be honoured by all,” the bishops said, adding that the religious leaders of all faiths were available to help facilitate this process.

The appeal by the bishops comes at a time when fierce fighting is taking place in the northern Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu district between the army and the LTTE rebels.

The Sri Lankan government is determined to capture the rebel-held districts of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and its troops are said to be operating on the outskirts of the rebel’s political capital, Kilinochchi, 350 km north of here.

The military said that heavy clashes were reported in the area in the past few days as the rebels put up major resistance to the soldiers inching towards the town.

There was no immediate reaction to the bishops’ proposal from either the government or the LTTE.

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