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St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo that was targeted in the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attack on April 21, 2019.  St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo that was targeted in the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attack on April 21, 2019.   (ANSA)

Sri Lankan bishops’ Christmas message urges commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation

Christmas in Sri Lanka comes after two major events in the country in 2019. National security concerns following the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks on churches and hotels were a priority issue that dominated the run-up to the Nov. 16 presidential election. The bishops look to a future of hope for the nation.

By Robin Gomes

The Catholic Church of Sri Lanka is calling on the nation to develop a healthy political culture with justice and peace, saying the question of poverty can be alleviated only by creating fair economic structures.

Healthy political culture

"True development of human beings can happen only in a society where there is mutual respect, justice and peace," Bishop Winston Fernando of Badulla, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, said in a Christmas message. 

Writing on behalf of the country’s Catholic bishops, he insisted that “a sincere commitment of everyone is needed in creating this environment in our country”.  “This country has witnessed a free and fair election and there is hope among the people to see the dawn of a healthy political culture devoid of corruption and injustice."

Sri Lanka’s bishops urged that economic development be sustainable and respect the lives of people and the environment.

Reconciliation

"Let us commit ourselves to change all that which is not in keeping with God's holy will in our midst by becoming agents of peace, harmony and reconciliation and by forgetting the petty differences which hinder the common good," Bishop Fernando added.

2019 was marked by two major developments in the Indian Ocean island nation.  The nation and the world were rudely awakened on Easter Sunday by the shocking news of terrorist suicide bomb attacks on 3 churches and 3 luxury hotels that killed more than 250 people. 

The massacre triggered an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity and closeness from countries and faith communities around the world.    

The April 21 attacks made national security a priority issue in Sri Lanka’s presidential election of November 16.

Solidarity with Easter attack victims

In a separate Christmas message, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo Archdiocese urged Christians to visit families of victims of the Easter Sunday tragedy over the festive season and to “refrain from noisy gatherings, parties and waste”, in solidarity with them.

Most of the Easter Sunday casualties occurred at St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church Negombo of Colombo Archdiocese, where 113 died.  The other churches hit were St. Anthony’s Shrine of Colombo and the Evangelical Zion Church of Batticaloa in the eastern coast. 

Cardinal Ranjith spoke about families’ “loss of their loved ones, the unbridgeable vacuum created in their hearts by these losses, the pain and suffering of the injured, some of whose lives have been shattered beyond repair, and the little children whose parents will never return to them”.  

Unanswered questions

He noted that many are still haunted by pain and the sudden loss of direction in their lives.

He lamented that many of the families of victims don’t know why they were targeted.  "The authors of this deed have not been identified. Thus, the suffering of those victims has been compounded by the inability of the authorities to go looking for the authors of this horror, adding insult to injury," Cardinal Ranjith said.

A sober Christmas

He said that “with so many of our brothers and sisters still suffering intensively, it is not proper for us to make the birth of the Divine Saviour, who deigned to be born among the poor and the suffering in a humble manger, an event of noisy celebrations.”

He urged Christians to celebrate “this Christmas with a great spirit of solidarity with the poor, the marginalized and especially in the spiritual solidarity with all those who suffered as a result of the Easter Sunday tragedy”.

The cardinal added: "Instead this Christmas should be a moment for us to reflect about and bear in mind this painful situation afflicting many of our brothers and sisters, to pray for them and for our beloved motherland, to commit ourselves to work for peace, harmony and reconciliation among the various communities living in Sri Lanka."  (Source: UCANEWS)

14 December 2019, 14:11