Mannaar Bishop demands open declaration of Madu as Peace Zone
[TamilNet, Sunday, 27 April 2008, 09:09 GMT]
Bishop of Mannaar, Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, on Saturday told media that the warring parties should openly declare the Madu Shrine and its environs as Peace Zone in order to bring back Our Lady of Madu statue to the Holy Shrine. Meanwhile Sri Lankan Defence ministry in its official news on Sunday quoted Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka as saying: "those who were in charge of the statue have the responsibility of bringing it back". The SL defence ministry added that Madu "would be declared as a security zone," without specifying what it meant with the term, 'security zone.' Vicar General Rev. A. Victor Soosai on Saturday visited the Shrine for an inspection.
Mannaar Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph
The principal deputy of the Bishop after his inspection of the Shrine said that shelling had caused heavy damage to the the Sacred Heart Church, attached to the right side of the Madu Shrine. The main shrine has also sustained minor damages on its left side. Otherwise, the properties of the Shrine, which had been situated inside the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) administered area, were intact, he said.
A senior Tamil academic of Catholic background from Mannaar, told TamilNet that the Catholics in Mannaar were hurt when photos appeared in Colombo media depicting armed SLA soldiers in military uniforms emerging from the Shrine.
Our Lady of Madu at Theavanpiddi [Photo: TamilNet]
He said that the act of the SLA, and the high-handed manner in which the Commander of SLA has "instructed" the Church to bring back 'Our Lady of Madu', displayed the cultural insensitiveness of the military that had a record of desecrating holy places.
Elaborating the Bishop's concerns, the academic who did not wished to be named, added that there were serious environmental concerns. "The SLA has a record of clearing valuable trees in the name of what they label as national security". Mannaar has already witnessed the destruction of hundreds of thousands of palmyrah trees by the SLA. The Church should therefore be firm in its stand that the government of Sri Lanka should declare the Madu Shrine covering 2.5 km radius as a peace zone bereft of armed forces, he opined.