By Robin Gomes
Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, has called on the nation to observe a two-minute silence and appealed for all places of worship to ring bells on April 21 to commemorate the victims of last year’s Easter Sunday bombings.
“Keep a two-minute silence at 8.45 am and light a lamp or a candle at your home at 8.47 am and observe religious rites to commemorate the victims on April 21,” said Cardinal Ranjith last week.
However, all activities scheduled to mark the first anniversary of the Easter attacks will not be held publically because of the lockdown against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People can join these programmes broadcast on television without any participation by the public,” the cardinal said.
Attack on 3 churches
In a coordinated move, 9 suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday last year, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500.
The 7 bomb attacks took place at two Catholic churches and one evangelical church in Batticaloa in the eastern part of the country. The blasts happened between 8.45 and 9.30 on Easter Sunday morning.
The Catholic churches of St. Sebastian in Negombo and St. Anthony, Kochchikade, were consecrated and reopened to the public but Zion Church is still being renovated.
Cry for justice
After the bombings, the general public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to act on intelligence about the attacks.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka and Cardinal Ranjith appealed to the government to appoint an independent commission to conduct an impartial inquiry and to bring the perpetrators before the law.
Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the attacks.
At an Easter Sunday Mass, Cardinal Ranjith said that Christians have forgiven their killers. At a Mass broadcast live, he said that “as humans, we could have given a human and selfish response but we meditated on Christ's teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them”.
“We did not hate them and return them the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness,” the cardinal said in his homily.
Sri Lanka has been under a curfew since March 20 to combat the deadly Covid-19 infection.
On Sunday, the government announced a partial easing of the nationwide curfew from Monday to boost economic activity. However, on Monday, it dropped the plan and extended it to April 27 following a sudden spike of 41 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours.
As of April 20, Sri Lanka recorded 295 cases of coronavirus with 7 deaths.
The island nation’s planned general election on April 25 has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic.