Source: Sunday Leader
SRI LANKA, August 5, 2001: In response to humanitarian disasters both natural and man-made, victims are usually resettled in their place of origin, or at least compensated for their loss. One project has created a furor, bringing to light divisions among religious communities in Mannar, Sri Lanka. The 300-320 families to be resettled under this project are inmates of the Pesalai open relief camp. The program involves the government providing the infrastructure and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, which builds houses for settlers. The Catholic Church got involved as the bishop of Mannar had offered church land in Thotaveli where 300 families could be resettled. Settlers were distributed a document that basically excluded everyone who is not a Catholic from settling on this land. The agreement expects all settlers to acknowledge that they have been settled in the land belonging to the church and those who avail themselves of this benefit have to abide within the Catholic faith. The victims wrote in protest to the government telling of this demand that violates their right to religious beliefs and the standards enshrined in the UN guiding principles on resettling internally displaced persons.