Pope calls on international community to help Sri Lanka
VATICAN CITY, 12 November 2009 (UCAN)—Pope Benedict XVI has added his voice to international pressure on the Sri Lankan government to speed up resettlement of thousands of people displaced by the 25-year civil war.
Six months have passed since the end of the war "that bloodied Sri Lanka," he pointed out. He said he was pleased by Sri Lankan authorities' efforts to send the displaced home but urged "an acceleration in this process."
The Pope also appealed to the international community to respond to "the humanitarian and economic needs of Sri Lanka" and for all Sri Lankans "to work for a rapid pacification in full respect for human rights, and towards a just political solution."
The 82-year-old pontiff made his appeal on Nov. 11, at the end of his weekly public audience before 8,000 pilgrims from around the world.
It came a week after he met leaders of Sri Lanka's main religious communities on Nov. 4. That delegation included two Buddhists monks, a Hindu, a Muslim, the head of Caritas in Sri Lanka and the Catholic archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith.
Archbishop Ranjith said after the audience that they had presented the Pope with an appeal for peace in Sri Lanka "with particular reference to the situation of the refuges and (the need for) economic assistance."
The group had earlier told Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, that they hoped to help convince the European Union to withdraw its "counterproductive" decision to removed tax concessions on products imported from Sri Lanka.
After meeting the Pope, the Sri Lankan delegation Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and then went on to present their case to senior European Union officials in Brussels, and to government officials in London and Paris.
More than 80,000 people were killed due to the conflict in Sri Lanka between rebels from the minority Tamil community and the Sinhalese-led government. Hostilities began in 1983.
More than 280,000 Tamils were detained in closed camps after government forces overran the last holdout of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May. Sri Lankan authorities say 100,000 have been returned home. Some other estimates of the numbers of returnees are much lower.