by Peter Stanford
IN THE WAKE of the recent racial violence in Sri Lanka, the country's Catholic bishops have issued a pastoral letter on the feastof the Pentacost pleading for reconciliation and restructuring of society on the island.
The letter, "Towards the Rebuilding of the Sri Lankan Nation", begins by stressing the common responsibility of the whole nation for reconstruction.
"We as a community of Christians must recognise that we too, in some ways have contributed to bringing about this situation" the letter states of the recent troubles.
However, peace has been possible in the past, the bishops state, and they go on to express the hope that "our togetherness in genuine truth and love can contribute towards a peaceful solution to otir national problem of unity in diversity".
Turning to more concrete proposals, the bishops highlight the "principle of subsidiarity", which they define as the recognition by a higher authority that it should not take on tasks which a lower authority could do.
This then leads them to the view that participation in dayto-day government should be spread as widely as possible by delegating authority to as many local bodies as possible. In a comment clearly addressed to the Sinhalese majority on the island, the bishops say that "majority rule must recognise the legitimate and basic rights of all".
The future unity of Sri Lanka must be based on justice and the consent of all, the bishops write. They call for a social contract which will include a
constitutional guarantee of the rights of minority groups such as the Tamil in the north of the island.
The bishops make a variety of suggestions for social restructuring to ensure harmony including setting up an independent monitoring agency to report on inter-racial relations, the recognition of Tamil as an official language, and the giving of more time in both the school curriculum and the mass media to Tamil opinions and culture.
The bishops letter comes after reports from Catholic sources of continuing racial tension on the island. Bishop Deogopulle of Jaffna has accused the Sri Lankan army (which is dominated by Sinhalese) of "behaving like a foreign army occupying a conquered territory" in the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna.