21 December 2014
Ecumenical leader expresses concern for innocent civilians
CHENNAI, India (APEN) – An ecumenical leader working with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) has warned of a possible “genocide” of Tamil people in the northern part of Sri Lanka.

Reverend Freddy De Lewis, executive secretary of CCA’s Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service (JID) said that “the present situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka, where fighting is going on between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam has the potential for genocide.”

In an interview with APENews here on 13 February, Freddy said that some 300,000 Tamil civilians are caught in the fighting and they are unable to move to peace zones set up by the government as they face threats of being killed.

Thousands of innocent Tamil people’s lives are in danger, he said.

He termed the present situation in the north of the country as “the beginning of a dark era for Tamil people.”

He wanted the intervention of international communities in this “dangerous situation” developing in the north of the country.

Freddy, a Sri Lankan national, criticized the government for asking the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICCR) to move out of the conflict zone, thus denying the badly needed humanitarian assistance to the suffering people.

According to media reports, a September 2008 government order to all UN and international NGOs to move out of the conflict zone has made matters worse for the civilians.

No NGO or civil society movement can undertake any humanitarian efforts without the approval of the government, he noted.

As the responsibility now lies with the government, it must take immediate measures to solve the present humanitarian problems, he added.

He expressed the hope that India will intervene at the earliest to solve the humanitarian crisis.

Freddy, who was here in this southern India city, after visiting political and religious leaders in Sri Lanka on 10, 11 and 12 February expressed concern over the denial of right to information to the people of the island nation by the government. The opposition parties, media, foreign embassies and ordinary citizens have been kept in the dark about what is going on in the north, he alleged.

Among the many political leaders, the JID executive secretary visited in Sri Lanka were Dr Wickramabahu Karunanayake, Dr Nimalka Fernando and Mr Keerthi Rajith Tennakoon. Mr Charlie Ocampo, another CCA-JID executive secretary also joined him on the Sri Lankan visit, which took them to many Christian, Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders.

Freddy expressed unhappiness about most of the Sri Lankan church leaders’ silence over the present situation in Sri Lanka.

He was, however, appreciative of the Colombo-based Anglican bishop Duleep de Chickera and the Methodist Church president Reverend Ebenezer Joseph for their timely responses and interventions on the many issues related to the current conflict between the government forces and the LTTE, and its impact on the innocent civilians.

Chiang Mai-based CCA is the oldest Asian ecumenical movement comprising nearly 100 protestant and orthodox churches, and 19 national councils of churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Timor Leste.

Among the many objectives of the CCA are the promotion and strengthening of the unity of the Asian churches, and the development and promotion of relationships with people of other faiths in the region.

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