ASIA NEWS REPORT:
by Melani Manel Perera
Lanka's Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, a Muslim, accuses Mgr
Rayappu Joseph of stirring the Tamil community against Muslims in his region.
People from across the country come together to demand an official apology. "No
one defends our rights like the bishops," Muslims and Hindus
Mannar (AsiaNews) - More than 5,000 people, Christians, Muslims and Hindus,
lay people, members of the clergy and Senior and junior Tamil
politicians, gathered yesterday at the Cathedral of St Sebastian in
Mannar to show their support and express their solidarity with Mgr Rayappu
Joseph, bishop of Mannar (Northern Province), against the "vile comments" of the
Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.
In a recent statement in parliament, the minister accused the bishop of
stirring the Tamil population in his region against Muslims. He even compared
the bishop to the Ven Innamaluwe Sumangala Nayak Thero, a Buddhist monk from the
Golden Temple in Dambulla, who in late April backed a group
of Buddhists who attacked a mosque.
With people coming from around Sri Lanka, rally participants stressed the
"extraordinary courage" Mgr Joseph puts in everything he does. At the end of the
meeting, people appealed to the minister to apologise to the prelate.
"The minister, a Muslim, should be condemned for his statement," said Makkal
Caddar, a retired imam. "We appreciate what the bishop is doing for all the
people of Mannar."
Similarly, for Sister Jacintha, a nun with the Sisters of Charity that
represented the Trincomalee & Batticaloa
Diocese, the minister's remarks "undermine harmony in
"We admire what Mgr Joseph does," said Mano Iankaran Sharma, a Hindu. "His
dedication is incredible. He works on behalf of each one of us, Tamil,
Sinhalese, Catholics, Hindus or Muslims. I have never seen a Hindu priest do the