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Bishop makes war evacuee appeal

Government urged to do more to allow people evacuated 15 years ago to return home

Some parish families accompanied with Bishop at Kilali village Some parish families accompanied with Bishop at Kilali village
  • ucanews.com reporter, Jaffna
  • Sri Lanka
  • May 5, 2011
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A Catholic bishop has urged the government to do more to help people evacuated 15 years ago during the civil war to return home to their villages.

Many villagers still do not know when they will be able to return home to rebuild their lives, Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna said.

Some 2,000 families, most of them Catholics, have been staying in refugee camps since 1995. Luckier families have been with relatives or living in rented accommodation.

The bishop’s call comes after he and some evacuees were permitted last week to visit several abandoned villages under the supervision of the military.

One of them included Kilali, which is located some 50 kilometers south east of Jaffna City.

"What greeted us were ruined homes and churches overrun by an encroaching jungle," Bishop Savundranayagam said.

"All we could do was to try and clean up St James Church and St Michael Church, collect some statues and conduct a service within the allotted hours."

“These people have been frustrated and displaced for a long time. Let them take the next step [and go home],” Bishop Savundranayagam said in his appeal to the government.

“After years of living in camps they are longing for their home villages,” said Father Sebastiampillai Anthony Mariathas of the major seminary in Kandy.

Father Mariathas is a native of Kilali and was forced to leave with his parents.

The government says the areas surrounding the villages are still dangerous because of mines. It says there are about 1,500 military and NGO personnel currently involved in mine clearing in the former war zone and that people will be allowed to return once the areas are made safe.

Related reports

Bishop seeks equal aid for Tamil refugees

Sri Lanka navy to return requisitioned church

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