Bishop in northern Sri Lanka, Tamil alliance protest postponement of war report

Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar on Tuesday (Feb 24) joined a demonstration led by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decision to delay the release of a report on issues of accountability during the Tamil separatist war and the post-conflict period.

However, Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna where the protests were held refrained from joining the protest due to the participation of politicians in the event, Sri Lankan online newspaper, The Island, reported on Thursday. 

TNA (Tamil: தமிழ்த் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பு) is a political alliance in Sri Lanka composed of moderate Tamil parties as well as number of former rebel groups that has participated in elections since 2001.

Bishop Joseph meanwhile reportedly called the deferment of the report’s release as UNHRC’s deception of the Tamil people who have no faith in a domestic investigation of war crimes under any government. 

Read The Island’s full report

On the day of the protest, the Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) and the Welfare Organisation for the Forcibly Disappeared Persons also jointly decided in Jaffna not to appear and give evidence before the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP).

In their statement released Feb. 27 the forum convened by Bishop Joseph listed reasons why it is convinced that a credible inquiry is possible only through international means.

It noted that while the government has promised to create a credible domestic mechanism for probing alleged atrocities it “seems to continue with the approach adopted by the previous regime towards truth, justice and accountability of which your commission’s continuance is a prominent example.”

“We cannot afford to continue to appear before this commission giving it a stamp of legitimacy,” Task Force leaders wrote.

The UNHCR investigated allegations of war crimes following a resolution adopted last March, and planned to present its report during next month’s session. However the UN body announced it would issue its report in September instead after newly installed Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena assured that government would conduct an impartial and transparent domestic probe into allegations of atrocities. 

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister had reportedly asked the UN body to give the administration installed in January more time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the fallout of the investigation.

Alleged war crimes include attacks on civilians and civilian buildings, and executions of combatants and prisoners by both the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tigers  – the guerrilla organization established in 1976 that sought to establish an independent Tamil state of Eelam in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lankan military and paramilitary groups backed by them were also accused in enforced disappearances and acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone. Tamil Tigers were allegedly recruiting children as fighters.

The group gained control of Jaffna Peninsula by 1985, two years after escalation of violence between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka military. It lost control of Jaffna in October 1987 to an Indian peacekeeping force that had been sent to Sri Lanka to assist in the implementation of a complete ceasefire.

However, following the withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990, the Tigers grew in strength and conducted several successful guerrilla operations and attacks around the country and in India.

Earlier in 1981, Pope John Paul II created Mannar diocese from territories formerly under the pastoral care of the Jaffna diocese.

 

Papal Visit 2015 Sri Lanka: Pope Francis will be there – Cardinal Ranjith

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Preparations continue, and the Papal visit will take place, despite the doubts that clouded the event in the last months. The Sri-Lankan Church confirms Pope Francis’ pilgrimage from the 13th to the 15th of January; but President Mahinda Rajapaksa also confirms presidential elections on the 8th of January. In this state of affairs, the Pope is, whether he wants to or not, one of the deciding factors in the electoral campaign, in a contest between two candidates that promises to be very balanced. And, hopefully, it will be ‘free from any violence’ as the two candidates wished together in a public statement.

The first unavoidable aspect is exploitation…

Read full report ,La Stampa

Hong Kong police release Cardinal Zen, protest leaders after “surrender”

Three founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy protest movement, joined by retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, 82, have been released without restrictions after they “surrendered” to police yesterday, Dec. 3, Channel News Asia reported.

Protesters flocked to Hong Kong’s central district in late September and blocked three major intersections to demand free elections in the special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China after the government announced its decision to screen presidential candidates in the 2017 elections.

Cardinal Zen has been quoted telling a pro-democracy demonstration earlier this year that it is time for Hong Kong people to show that they “no longer want to be slaves.” Last Sept. 28, he urged protesting students who had gathered at a public square to go home and continue protesting in other forms after police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. 

Cardinal John Tong-hon of Hong Kong had appealed to the Hong Kong-SAR government to exercise restraint on the second day of the demonstration, after police sprayed tear gas on those protesters. He also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have not issued a warrant of arrest for protest leaders even after officials had called the protests illegal. 

What now for the quest for peaceful reconciliation and democracy in Hong Kong and China?

Read full report on police release protest leaders

 

 

Aquino sends Bangsamoro draft law to congress, kicks off stakeholders’ dialogues

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

President Benigno Aquino III has submitted to the Philippine Congress the proposed law providing for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that is seen as key to establishing and promoting peace and development in the southern Philippines.

Bangsamoro entity created by the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

An update from the Institute on Autonomy and Government (IAG) reported that the Senate and House of Representatives can now proceed to deliberate on the draft law. 

Congressman Rufus Rodriguez will chair the Special Committee that will take up the proposed law in the Lower House. The House of Representatives will create a 75-member ad hoc committee to “review, evaluate and propose legislation” based on the draft BBL.

Its functions include:

* Study, deliberate on and act upon all measures referred to it inclusive of bills, resolutions and petitions, and recommend for approval or adoption by the House those that, in its judgment, advance the interests and promote thr welfare of the people;

* Establish appropriate system and procedures to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups are given sufficient opportunities to be heard;

* Pursue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors and constituencies;

* Require the submission of studies, research and position papers;

* Engage the services and assistance of experts and professionals from the public or private sector as may be needed;

* Conduct hearings and inquiries in aid of legislation on matters within its jurisdiction;

* Act on measures referred to it and render a report to the plenary for its consideration.

Senate discussions will be led by the Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. Members include Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (Vice chair) and member Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Manuel Lapid, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe. Senators Ralph Recto, Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Ponce Enrile are Ex-Officio members.

IAG in an e-group notice said with the NGO Philippine Center  for Islam and Democracy (PCID) it will continue to report on deliberations on the BBL in Congress.

In Cotabato City, southern Philippines, the institute will collaborate with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines political foundation, Notre Dame University of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation (NDBC) and launch a series of talk shows to foster understanding of the proposed BBL.

The talkshop series will bring together members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), experts, civil society leaders, and key stakeholders to discussions, analysis and debates on the salient features of the BBL certified as urgent by the President for approval by Congress.

IAG senior policy adviser, Oblate Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., meanwhile will reconvene the Bangsamoro Study Circle group in a series of special sessions to study the draft bill for greater participation of stakeholders in the discussion of the issues that confront the general public.

Concerned people are invited to study the proposed law and submit their views and opinion on the draft law to info@iag.org.ph , which will publish  comments on its website’s opinion section. 

IAG will also publish updates on Facebook and Twitter @IAGorgph using hashtag #BBLWatch 

UN officials hail role of cultural, religious dialogue in advancing peace, development

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City's observance of 3rd World Interfaith harmony Week. - screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube http://youtu.be/jIappGJ3V3k

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City’s observance of 3rd World Interfaith Harmony Week. – screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube

United Nations officials yesterday highlighted the important role played by the initiative known as the Alliance of Civilizations in building bridges to peace, especially amid the current instability in many parts of the world, as they kicked off a global forum in Bali, Indonesia.

The Forum hosted this past week for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the theme “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values.” Discussions ran along the lines of  the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide.

“The Alliance is here for you to serve as a soft power tool for conflict prevention, reconciliation, and to advance sustainable development,” said the High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

“Globally, there is a persistent need for the work of the Alliance if we really want to pursue the future we want,” he told the gathering of government officials, business representatives, faith leaders, media professionals and young people from around the world.

Nasser noted that the Alliance retains a strong commitment to innovative approaches. For example, it is working with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote digital games and apps as avenues for cross-cultural dialogue and conflict resolution.

It is also working with private sector organizations such as the BMW Group and others to promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, while making vital contributions to prosperity and peace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks noted that too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. “Too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines,” he stated, adding “We have much work ahead of us across a landscape of tension.”

In this context, the the alliance has supported grassroots initiatives, including encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao and helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. 

Read the full report here

View video of Nasser’s speech here

Wish for Pope Francis’ visit to Madhu to reconcile Church and nation

Screen shot of the logo of Pope Francis' January 12-15 visit to Sri Lanka 2015 discussed on the website of the Archdiocese of Colombo http://www.archdioceseofcolombo.com/inner.php?news_id=369

Screen shot of the logo of Pope Francis’ January 12-15 visit to Sri Lanka 2015 discussed on the website of the Archdiocese of Colombo http://www.archdioceseofcolombo.com/inner.php?news_id=369

The reported visit of Pope Francis to the Shrine of Madhu in Northern Sri Lanka in January is seen as a logistical challenge,  an opportunity for the charismatic head of the Catholic Church to raise awareness of the plight of victims of the 26-year civil war in the country that ended in 2009, and a way to ease tension in a divided Church and nation.

The supposed planned visit revealed earlier this month by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, awaits the Vatican’s official announcement.

Italian La Stampa newspaper’s Vatican Insider website discusses Cardinal Malcom’s announcement of the visit to the Marian Shrine, logistical problems surrounding such a journey and its significance to resolving division among Sri Lanka clergy and Church members as well as to people’s quest for national reconciliation.

More on this in Sri Lanka: Pope Francis will go among the Tamils

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Pope Francis to visit Madhu Shrine, spend time with war victims, orphans? – Sri Lanka web news

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

screenshot – Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.

The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.

Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 . 

“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.

Read EyeSriLanka report

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