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I urge everyone to maintain a peaceful approach, says Pope amid Sri Lanka violence

Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed to the people of Sri Lanka to make their voices heard in a peaceful manner and asked the political leadership to heed their demands, as over a month-long, countrywide protests over severe economic distress took a dramatically violent turn earlier this week.

“I address a special thought to the people of SriLanka, especially the young. I urge everyone to maintain a peaceful approach, without giving in to violence. I appeal to all those with the responsibility to listen to the aspirations of the people, respecting human and civil rights,” Francis said on Twitter.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

WATCH | Sri Lanka on the boil: Who is accountable?

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports.

Mahinda resigned as prime minister on Monday, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.

At least 9 people died with over 200 being hospitalised. Some 58 of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government colleagues have seen arson attacks on their personal properties.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who served as the country’s prime minister thrice, saw his residence set on fire on Monday.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with his wife and family, fled his official residence – Temple Trees – and took shelter at the naval base in Trincomalee.

Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience in the Vatican, Pope Francis said he sends his greetings especially to the “young people who in recent times have made their cry heard in the face of the country’s social and economic challenges and problems”, News First Lanka reported.

READ | Sri Lankan family with two-month-old infant lands on Indian coast seeking refuge

“I join religious authorities in urging all parties to maintain a peaceful attitude, without yielding to violence,” the pope said.

Pope Francis urged the ruling political leaders to listen to the voices of the protesters.

“I appeal to all those with responsibilities to listen to the aspirations of the people and to ensure full respect for human rights and civil liberties.”

READ | Sri Lankan President says he will appoint new PM this week as army marches on streets of Colombo

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