The Church of Ceylon's Bishop of Colombo has called on Christians to shun violence as the island nation prepares for elections.
The Rt Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey appealed to believers to say "no to any form of violence and intimidation in the election process."
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse called the January 8 election two years ahead of schedule after his party's popularity showed a 21 percentage point decline at local elections in September.
The bishop's appeal come after recent reports of violent clashes - including shooting incidents - between rival groups since elections were called in November.
Read the full statement below
Presidential elections have been called for January 8th 2015, by the Elections’ Commissioner. We as members of the Christian church are a part and parcel of this country which is our dear Motherland. Together with all its citizen we then have a duty to participate in the upcoming electoral process.
The development of the country, the welfare of all its citizens, internal peace and harmony amongst all groups, its independence and its standing in the family of the nations of this world should be of vital importance to us.
We have now entered into the season of Advent, which will soon be followed by Christmas and Epiphany. We find the message of hope and liberation for all people running as a golden thread through all these seasons in the Christian calendar. Jesus also challenged us to pray and work for the coming into being of the ‘Kingdom of God’ and its values, as reflected In the Lord’s prayer , “…Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as well as in heaven...”.
The God whom we believe in is a life giving and life affirming God, whose qualities of Mercy, Justice and Righteousness as well as His special concern for the weak and oppressed re echoed and re-echoed both in the Old and New Testaments. As followers of Christ, we must also abstain from all forms of violence ourselves as well as saying no to any form of violence and intimidation in the election process. Let us be guided by the Holy Spirit to act with responsibility and discernment in the forthcoming elections.
We also appeal, to all political parties to commit themselves publicly and sincerely to a violence free election and to call for restraint by their supporters. We appeal to public servants including the police and armed forces to act with impartiality, firmness and loyalty to the Nation and its people in ensuring the framework for a free and fair election.
I call upon all parishes within the diocese to offer prayers and foster awareness that these values of Gods’ kingdom remain uppermost in the minds of our congregations, especially during these coming days.
The Rt Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey
Bishop of Colombo