Christians Rally Against Alleged 'Genocide' in Sri Lanka

Hundreds of Tamil supporters joined by Christian religious leaders and human rights activists on Wednesday protested the "genocide" of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Organized by the Ecumenical Christian Forum for Human Rights (ECFHR), the "protest fast unto justice" was held in India's capital to draw the attention of the government as well as the international community on the mass murder of innocent and unarmed civilians trapped in the Safe Zone in northern Sri Lanka.

Expressing solidarity with the Lankan Tamils – caught in the crossfire between the Mahindra Rajapakse government and the LTTE – were mainstream church bodies including the National Council of Churches in India, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Evangelical Fellowship of India and Church of North India.

At the start of the sit-in at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao, condemned the genocide of Tamils in the island nation and said the church stands in solidarity with the suffering.

The organizers during the event castigated the Sinhala government for masquerading with false assurances of ending combat operations.

According to the ECFHR, "over 2,447 Tamils were last night killed" in a chemical dud dropped on civilians. The cluster bombs and gunfire by the Sri Lankan armed forces still continues, it lamented.

Fr. Jebamalai Raja S.J., coordinator of the event, told Christian Today: "It's a deliberate genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka for which churches all over India have united to condemn and express solidarity."

"Civilians are drastically affected by the lack of food, water and medicine. The international community should step in to halt the mass killings," he added.

The ecumenical forum, which recently organized a similar protest rally in Madurai, said "innocent people have lost their dear ones, and are badly wounded, lost their homelands, and have become refugees in their own land.

"Their future is totally dark."

It further lamented that women, children, and the aged, sick and wounded are dying of starvation, and are suffering from the lack of medical care and absence of humanitarian assistance in the camps.

Although the Sri Lankan government announced a halt to combat operations, the ecumenical forum noted, "This step, which is too little too late, does not guarantee and fulfill the just demands of the Tamils in the island."

The group further appealed to the international community and the United Nations to "initiate a process of bringing a lasting peace through negotiated political settlement to protect the human rights and self-determination of the Tamils."

It also called for the formation of an "international fact finding team who can visit the affected areas to assess the real damage and to monitor the humanitarian services to the affected people."

Apart from hastening humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims, EFCHR demanded that relief camps be run and managed by the international agencies, unhindered by the Sri Lankan government.

According to a top U.N. humanitarian coordinator, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans are still trapped in conflict zone while some 200,000 others are in refugee camps and waiting for relief assistance.

The United Nations says 6,500 people have been killed in the past three months in the long-running civil war.

The civil war between the government and the Tamil rebels is one of the world's deadliest ongoing armed conflicts. Over 150,000 people so far have been reported killed.