By Robin Gomes
In a coordinated move, 9 suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath exploded themselves in the churches and hotels, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500. The attack left the nation of 21 million people shell-shocked and devastated.
“This is a moment to remember this senseless and meaningless tragedy that happened to us on Easter Sunday last year and which is completing one year today, 21 April,” recalled Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo.
The first anniversary of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka was a simplified version of a more elaborate commemoration event that was cancelled owing to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Even the country's television channels went silent in tribute.
The bombed Catholic churches of St. Sebastian in Negombo, just north of Colombo, and St. Anthony’s Shrine Kochchikade were consecrated and reopened to the public but Zion Church of Batticaloa, in the eastern coast, is still being renovated.
“We are very keen to remember all these people who died in these bomb blasts and also those have been injured,” said Cardinal Ranjith, who had called for the moment of silence and the ringing of church and temple bells to remember their dead.
Nearly 300 people were killed and many more injured, many of them suffering even today, said the cardinal, under whose jurisdiction comes St. Anthony’s Shrine Kochchikade and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, which had the highest number of deaths.
He told Vatican Radio that some of them were on wheelchairs, disabled for life, some were in bed, and that they need to think about them.
He said it is a moment to remember and pray for all those who died. It is also an occasion to console the families who have lost their loved ones or who have injured members, so they can help and show their concern for them, he told Vatican Radio.
After the bombings, Sri Lanka’s public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to act on intelligence about the attacks.
In his homily at Easter this year, the Cardinal Ranjith said that Christians had forgiven the killers. However, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka and the cardinal demanded that the perpetrators, their collaborators and supporters be brought to justice.