30 April 2008
Caritas Internationalis joins Caritas Sri Lanka in condemning the death of Fr Karunaratnam, who was killed in a bomb blast in the north of the country on April 20.
Fr Karunaratnam was the chair of the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, which aims to recognise and respect the human rights of the minority Tamil community.
Fr Karunaratnam played a key role in promoting peace in the conflict between government troops and Tamil minority rebels.
The national director of Caritas-Sri Lanka (SEDEC), Fr Damian Fernando, said, ‘He was an example of courage, strength and humanity and will be missed by all. He also showed endless empathy towards refugees and displaced people while working tirelessly to improve their living standards.
‘Over the past several months, violence has flared up in the country and innocent civilians have been the victims of this deteriorating situation. Caritas strongly condemns acts of violence against harmless human beings.
‘The killing of Fr Karunaratnam is a reminder to us all that a swift resolution to this partisan conflict has to be found and lasting peace achieved for all Sri Lankans and our entire country.’
This is the second killing of a clergy member in recent months in Sri Lanka and follows yet more violent deaths of church workesr in Pakistan and Iraq this year. Caritas partners have also received death threats from militias in Colombia this week (April 21) for their work on peace-building and development.
Caritas secretary general Lesley-Anne Knight said, ‘The tragic death of Fr Karunaratnam increases the pressure on all sides in Sri Lanka to find a lasting solution to the conflict through dialogue and negotiation and the international community to support the process.
‘That his death comes in the context of other killings and death threats on church workers is deeply troubling. All parties to a conflict must guarantee the protection of civilians. That the very people who are aiming to bring peace are losing their lives must underline the critical need to seek nonviolent solutions throughout the world’s war zones.’