As more and more civilians cross out of the battle zone in northeastern Sri Lanka to government-controlled areas, Buddhists and Catholics have joined forces to transport truckloads of relief items to the displaced people. “We collected milk powder, toothpaste, rice and eggs from Muslims, Buddhists and Christians,” Akurana Gunarathana, a Buddhist monk, told UCA News. He began his eight-hour journey northward around 3 a.m. March 8 with Buddhist monks and Catholic priests. An estimated 150,000 ethnic Tamils are still trapped in a small patch of Tamil-controlled area in the northeast of the island country . Since 1983, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for independence from the Sinhalese-led government in an effort to establish a Tamil state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The conflict has claimed close to 80,000 lives.