Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka was marked not with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, but with a series of gruesome suicide bombings in several churches and hotels, killing at least 290 people.
Christians around the world went to church on April 21, 2019 to hear Easter Sunday mass, but eight coordinated explosions rocked three churches in Sri Lanka and four hotels, reports Japan Times. The attacks left more than 200 people dead, at least 450 others injured, and many properties ruined.
Sri Lankan governments have overlooked violence against religious minorities — both Christians and Muslims — that has been on the rise in recent years. But we have never seen anything of this scale or magnitude before. —Rucki Fernando, human rights activist
The Christian community in the south Asian country has been targeted in the past, but not as massive and horrifying as the Sunday bombings on St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s in Negombo and the church in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The Catholic population is only 6% of the country’s population of 20 million.
“Sri Lankan governments have overlooked violence against religious minorities — both Christians and Muslims — that has been on the rise in recent years,” said Rucki Fernando, a human rights activist. “But we have never seen anything of this scale or magnitude before.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Yasmin Rodrigo, a 31-year-old survivor, recounted her experience as she was hearing morning mass at St. Anthony’s Shrine. She was seated in one of the pews in the middle of the church when she heard a loud noise. “For minutes, I could not understand that the church had suffered a massive attack. I managed to get out of the pew, I saw a pile of people lying on the floor, soaked in blood and soot.”
World and religious leaders condemned the deadly blasts, reports The Telegraph. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “outraged by the terrorist attacks.”
US President Donald Trump tweeted, “We stand ready to help!”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “It is shocking that people who gathered to celebrate Easter together were consciously targeted in this malicious attack.”
In a tweet, EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker wrote: “I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims who had gathered to worship peacefully or come to visit this beautiful country.”
Meantime, the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, expressed horror and sadness. He called on Sri Lanka’s government to “mercilessly” punish those behind the terrible attacks “because only animals can behave like that.”
Several Muslim groups mourned the loss of innocent lives and denounced extremists who spread terror to divide religious and ethnic groups in the country.