World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Statement on the situation in Sri Lanka

09 May 2000

Issued by the CCIA and communicated to the parties to the conflict on 9 May 2000.

The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches is deeply troubled by developments in Sri Lanka during the last few days. The military gains made by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Northern Jaffna peninsula have once again drawn the attention of the international community to the fratricidal ethnic conflict that has resulted in decades of misery and suffering of the Sri Lanka people. The capture of Elephant Pass by the LTTE and the withdrawal of the Sri Lankan armed forces to highly populated areas have dramatically intensified the climate of fear, tension and uncertainty in the whole island.

The ethnic conflict that escalated in 1983 has continued for nearly three decades with large sectors of both the Tamil and Sinhalese population caught in the middle as the warring parties achieved fluctuating military gains. It has long been clear that any pursuit of a final military solution of the conflict is an illusion. The parties concerned need to seek alternative means to resolve it.

During this period the country has suffered economically and politically. Its development programmes have been impeded as precious human and material resources have been squandered on war efforts. The announced decision of the government to buy still more arms to counter this offensive and the addition by the LTTE of new heavy weapons to its arsenal can only bring further suffering. The warring sides must now make an honest assessment of the situation and the human costs that continued armed confrontation will inflict on all the people. It is time also for the propaganda war to cease. Censorship should be removed. Independent news media should be allowed to expose the facts as they see them. Internationally recognised international humanitarian organisations should be given free access to protect civilians in zones of conflict and allowed to provide much needed relief to the people in affected areas.

The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs warmly welcomes the statement recently issued by the National Council of Churches in Sri Lanka saying that the conflict in Sri Lanka cannot be solved by military means and appealing to the parties to engage in serious negotiation for peace. The international community has repeatedly offered good offices to this end. Such offers should be accepted in the legitimate interests of the people.

We appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka and to the leadership of LTTE to lay down their arms now and to assume fully their shared responsibility to prevent further loss of precious human lives.

                                                                                                                                 Dwain C. Epps

                                                                                                                                 Commission of the Churches on
                                                                                                                                 International Affairs