Catholics hold candles while praying at St. Anthony's church in Colombo on Easter Sunday , April 9, 2023 Catholics hold candles while praying at St. Anthony's church in Colombo on Easter Sunday , April 9, 2023  (AFP or licensors)

Church in Sri Lanka launches human chain for truth on Easter Bombings

On Friday, 21 April, Srilankans are invited to join a new campaign asking for truth and justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings , for “the good and the future of the country”. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has consistently questioned the government’s narrative of the attacks calling for an international investigation.

By Lisa Zengarini

As the Church in Sri Lanka prepares to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, on 21 April, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has invited Srilankan Christians and of other religious creeds to join a human chain protest (Jana Paura) next Friday, supporting the Church’s quest for truth and justice over the attacks.

Watching until justice is done

The demonstration, themed “We are watching until justice is done”, will begin at 8:00 am, local time, at the sites where the terrorist attacks took place. Participants will be asked to observe two minutes of silence at 8.45 am and to stand in line from 8.30  to 9:00 am.

Cardinal Ranjith also invited those who will not be able to join the human chain to stop for two minutes of silence at their workplace.

The Easter bombings and allegations of a cover-up

On 21 April 2019, eight suicide bombers allegedly linked to the so-called Islamic State attacked 3 churches and 4 hotels, killing over 270 people and injuring more than 500, while leaving a number of others permanently disabled.   

Since then, investigations have faltered and Cardinal Ranjith, along with the Church and the families of the victims, has consistently voiced questions and doubts over the Sri Lankan authorities’ narrative of the attacks, accusing the Government of covering up the truth and the real culprits for political gain.

The investigation made some progress in January this year, when former President Maithripala Sirisena, and four top officials were sentenced to pay 100 million Rupees (273,000 USD) in compensation to the families of the victims by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court.  

According to the verdict, Sirisena failed to prevent the carnage, despite detailed intelligence reports suggesting such attacks were imminent. Along with Sirisena, former Sri Lankan police, intelligence and defense chiefs were held accountable for not adopting preventive measures and ordered to pay compensation.

Although Cardinal Ranjith hailed the Court’s ruling as a major breakthrough after nearly four years of deadlock, he still believes the full truth on the attacks has not been yet uncovered.

“We remember how the former Attorney General, speaking about the Easter Sunday tragedy, stated that there was a grand conspiracy behind these attacks. It was, as many have concluded, was primarily a political plot to come to power”, the Cardinal wrote in a message released on 16 April, inviting Srilankans to join the Church's campaign demanding truth and justice for the victims.

“We, by no means, will give up our resolve to pursue truth and justice until the Lord, in the end, will triumph in this struggle through His mercy and grace. We will do it relentlessly not only because the majority of the victims are within our fold, but also as it is our duty to the nation to work tirelessly in order to bring about a country which is safe for all.”

The message laments that “The Attorney General is deliberately avoiding taking the necessary steps to implement most of the recommendations” of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry established under the Sirisena’s Presidency against certain top level politicians, government officials and high ranking officers of the Sri Lanka police “for their gross neglect of duty and doing absolutely nothing to prevent the bloodshed even though they knew about the attacks beforehand”.  

Pursuing the truth for the good of the country

“If the culprits continue to enjoy immunity and they can still operate with impunity, what guarantees do we have that in the future, that similar or even greater violence will not recur  or  will not be resorted to, by someone in order to come to power?”,  Cardinal Ranjith asked.

The Cardinal reiterated this stand at a press conference on Monday, 17 April:  “In the past there have been murders, violence and religious and inter-ethnic conflicts, in which the principles of the rule of law and justice have been ignored for gaining and maintaining power. Our attempt is to show that we will not stop our efforts to expose these evil methods”, he was quoted as saying by Asianews agency . “We are convinced that if we abandon this commitment, we will set a bad precedent for the country".

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19 April 2023, 15:45