Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cardinal George Alencherry: Italian marines kill local Fishermen

An Indian cardinal has denied reports that he is acting as mediator in a dispute over the possible involvement of Italian marines in the death of two Indian fishermen.

The Italian marines, serving on the oil tanker Enrica Lexie, apparently mistook the two fishermen for pirates. The killings have prompted outrages in the state of Kerala.

Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-malabrese Church, who was raised to the College of Cardinals on February 18, said that he was working with political leaders in Kerala to ensure that the incident was “peacefully cleared up and resolved.” Cardinal Alencherry cautioned that political leaders should not manipulate the crisis for partisan advantage.

In a later statement, however, Cardinal Alencherry said that it was inaccurate to depict him as a mediator in the situation. “This event has to be investigated and if there is a culpable action it has to be dealt with legally and the culprits have to be punished,” he said. “Truth and justice have to be established.”

...Quilon (AsiaNews) - Numbering 48,501 out of a population of 5.3 million people, Christians in Quilon (Kollam) District are under shock and scared, after two Italian marines probably killed two Kerala fishermen.

"No one here is against the Italian government or Italian soldiers," Fr Stephen G. Kulakkayathil told AsiaNews. "We just don't want this kind of things to happen again in the future," said the clergyman, who is also secretary general of the Kerala Region Latin Catholic Council.

Gelastine, one of the two victims, came from Quilon Diocese. He left a wife and two boys, 17 and 8. Their mother is not employed but the Kerala state government said it would find her a job.

Meanwhile, both she and the widow of the other fisherman, Binki, will receive 500,000 rupees in compensation from Indian authorities.

These measures have not lessened the sense of sorrow or fear in the community. "Most of them are fishermen by tradition," the clergyman said. "When fish got rare near the coast, they had to use motorboats to go further out into the sea."

"Boats have always had accidents as a result of rough sea, rocks or other problems. Some fishermen have died. But no one was shot to death. It is a nightmare for them. The government must do something to increase security on the sea."

The local Church is highly critical of the media hype over the diplomatic aspect of the incident.

"As a diocese, we want and demand these families feel safe," Fr Kulakkayathil said. "We condemn the political use of this tragic incident because it debases the value of human life. Humans and their needs must be at the centre of things. The culprits must be found and the families must be helped."

"We appreciate the words of solidarity coming from the Kerala government, but we are steadfast in our demand that everything possible be done for these families."

Although the incident has upset the community in Quilon, there is positive side to it. Urged by the Church, fishermen appear to have put aside ethnic and social differences that kept them apart and are now finding a new unity.

"It is normal that such tragedies push old animosities in the background," the clergyman said. "We are helping them understand the value of this union so that they can act together for the greater good." (GM)

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