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St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, under nationwide coronavirus curfew. St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, under nationwide coronavirus curfew.  (ANSA)

Sri Lankan Christians forgive Easter suicide bombers, says cardinal

At an Easter Sunday Mass, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said that the message of Christ is to love your enemies. He said Christians have forgiven their killers.

By Robin Gomes

Sri Lankan Catholics have forgiven the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attackers who brought terror to the island nation a year ago, according to the Archbishop of Colombo.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said a group of misguided youths attacked the lives of people and aimed to harm Christians on Easter Sunday last year.

"Not only did Catholics die but the bombs also killed Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims," said Cardinal Ranjith at an Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, streamed live from his residence on TV stations because of the measures against the spread of Covid-19.

The horror of April 21, 2019

Nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath blasted three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21 last year, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring about 500.

They carried out coordinated bomb attacks at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St. Anthony's Shrine in Kotahena and the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa.

Rejection of retaliation, selfishness

“Last year, some misguided youths attacked us and we as humans could have given a human and selfish response," Cardinal Ranjith said in his homily. “But we meditated on Christ's teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them,” he said.

“We did not hate them and return them the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness,” the cardinal said.

Government's failure

After the bombings, the general public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failure 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.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena appointed a presidential commission to investigate the bombings.  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appointed a committee to undertake a formal inquiry and promised to give justice to victims.

Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the attacks.

Easter under Covid-19 threat

Sri Lanka has been under curfew for most of the past three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The prestigious  Johns Hopkins University put the coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka at 214, with 7 deaths. 

With churches closed, Christians celebrated Easter in their homes on Sunday, participating in religious services streamed live on TV.  Closed-door Easter services were held St Anthony's and St Sebastian's, without the faithful.

There haven’t been any organized commemorative events to honour those killed in last year’s bombings, mostly Catholics.  But the Catholic Church is planning a private ceremony on the anniversary day, April 21.

13 April 2020, 16:50