It’s 4 years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war when government troops defeated the LTTE Tamil separatist rebels. The conflict had raged for more than 25 years and led to the deaths of up to 100,000 people and caused widespread destruction in the Tamil-dominated north and east of the island. But 4 years later, are the scars of this brutal conflict beginning to heal? Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo His Lordship Bishop Emmanuel Fernando offered his assessment to Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges.
Listen to the extended interview with Bishop Fernando:.........F
Four years after the end of the war, Bishop Fernando says “everybody is happy there is no more war and terror.” But when it comes to the unhealed wounds of this long standing conflict, he says “there are a lot of people, especially in the north and the east” who are still prevented from going back to their own lands, sometimes because the military has confiscated them and sometimes for other reasons.
Bishop Fernando said he was among a group of Sri Lankan bishops who recently toured the north (where the fighting was concentrated during the war) and describes how they visited one village where the Catholic church “was razed to the ground” and most of the houses were extensively damaged during the fighting.
He says a major problem is that 4 years after the war there is “still no civilian government in many areas of the north” with the military in charge of governing the area and he says “there is a big need” for a civilian authority to be set up instead. As the for minority Tamil population, Bishop Fernando says many of them “have given up the idea of a separate state (for Tamils) … but they want their rights to be fulfilled.” He also spoke of how the Catholic Church through the Caritas network is helping to promote reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities by promoting opportunities for people from the north and south to travel and meet each other. He says in this way we “build trust in one another that we are all Sri Lankans.”