Head of Sri Lankan Bishops meets President Wickremesinghe
By Lisa Zengarini
For the first time since he took office on July 21, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met with the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCS), Bishop Harold Anthony Perera of Kurunegal, earlier this week, to discuss Catholic religious affairs and the current crisis in the country.
The talks, which both Bishop Perera and Wickremesinghe commented as “fruitful”, took place at the Bishop's House in Kurunegala on October 2. Attending the meeting were also two priests of the diocese, and former Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Discussions focused on Catholic religious affairs and current crisis
Bishop Perera briefed Wickremesinghe on some of the concerns and issues that the local Christian community has been facing amid the protracted political and economic crisis in the Asian nation which in April this year declared default on its $51 billion foreign debt.
Although the unprecedented anti-government demonstrations and protests that led to the ousting of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on July 15 have subsided, economic woes, inflation, and shortages of fuel, medicine, and other basic commodities are still grappling the country as it endures its worst currency and debt crisis and socio-political unrest in its history.
2.3 million Sri Lankan children need nutrition aid
Sri Lanka as its president faces fierce popular protest over the worst economic crisis in the island’s history.
The economic and financial difficulties, compounded by corruption and mismanagement at government level, the COVID-19 pandemic, and then by war in Ukraine, are severely impacting the lives and livelihoods of people in Sri Lanka, including the middle classes struggling to make ends meet and to feed their children.
UNICEF says 2.3 million Sri Lankan children need nutrition aid.
Sri Lankans with financial and professional means who can move abroad are leaving the 22-million nation: according to a local source cited by Fides News Agency, more than 500 doctors have left the country in the last eight months, and the same is happening with engineers.
Former President Sirisena summoned to court over Easter Sunday bombings
Another issue of great concern for the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is justice and truth on the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in which over 270 people were killed and about 500 injured as three churches and three hotels were hit in a series of coordinated Islamist suicide attacks.
Since then, investigations have faltered and the Church has insistently accused Sri Lankan authorities of having neglected intelligence reports on the impending terrorist attack, and then of covering up the real culprits for political gain.
These accusations have been voiced repeatedly and vehemently by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, who over the past months has also been lending his voice to the resolution of the social and economic woes of Sri Lankans.
However, Colombo’s authorities made a step forward in the investigation on September 16, when a local court summoned former President Maithripala Sirisena as a suspect in the incident, following a plaint filed by a victim alongside the National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims. He is expected to appeasr in court on October 14.
Sirisena, who has already been held responsible for the massacre by a special presidential probe on the case, but has never faced trial, is accused of having ignored warnings on the attacks and for not ordering preventive action. He has always denied these allegations.
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