Sri Lankan Christians still wait for justice for Easter attacks

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The faces of little ones and their parents and relatives displayed on a banner at a roadside in Batticaloa

Sri Lankan Christians still wait for justice for Easter attacks

la-croix.com

Nine months after the terrorist attacks in which three churches and three hotels were targeted in a series of suicide bombings, Sri Lankan authorities have yet to name those responsible.

The faces of little ones and their parents are displayed on a roadside banner in Batticaloa. The words read: "They will never be seen again."

A. Shanthini, a Tamil from Batticaloa, said that after experiencing such a traumatic event at Zion Church in Batticaloa, she still can't sleep. The explosions at the church and elsewhere caused irreparable losses to parents and children alike.

"Whoever was responsible for this attack during a Sunday church service should be severely punished," said Shanthini, 46, whose daughter was among the fatalities. "People go to a temple, a church or a mosque to worship. But what happened is heartbreaking."

A suicide bomber killed 29 of her fellow parishioners and wounded more than 100 at the evangelical church in eastern Sri Lanka. Many of the dead and wounded were children attending Sunday school. Shanthini underwent an operation for her injuries.

Still no one fully understands what happened that fateful day in April 2019. Many people wonder why the authorities waited until such a tragedy struck and have been so slow to deal with the aftermath.

Shanthini said that while no one knows who was behind the massacre, it is now clear that the government knew that such an attack was likely to take place yet failed to take action to prevent it.

Some ministers had reportedly taken measures to protect themselves before the bombings but the victims were innocent citizens.

"The bombings were not just about buildings. They are places of worship," said Shanthini.

"We need justice. There should be more voices speaking out against this deep silence even after nine months. We ask the international community to pressure the government to give justice to the victims."

Nine suicide bombers attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 260 people, including 37 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured.

They coordinated suicide bombings, which took place between 8.45am and 9.30am, at St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya in Negombo, St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa on Easter Sunday.

St. Sebastian's Church and St. Anthony's Shrine have been consecrated and reopened to the public but Zion Church is still being renovated.

The general public and religious leaders have criticized the government for failing to prevent the attacks. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has repeatedly appealed to the government to appoint an independent commission to hold an impartial inquiry and to bring the perpetrators before the law.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, has donated 10 million rupees (US$55,300) to Zion church.

"We must uncover the full truth about those who deliberately planned the attacks and all the local and foreign forces that have fostered hatred among us," said Cardinal Ranjith.

"We cannot prevent such crimes in the future without thoroughly understanding the real causes."

Following the attacks, former defense secretary Hemasiri Fernando and former police chief Pujitha Jayasundara were remanded in custody for failing to inform the public and prevent the attacks despite receiving prior warnings of a possible atrocity.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena appointed a presidential commission to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appointed a committee of formal inquiry and promised to give justice to the victims immediately.

Religious leaders have rejected all government-appointed committees on grounds that they lack transparency and impartiality.

President Rajapaksa recently donated 3,000,000 rupees to Cardinal Ranjith on behalf of the bomb victims.

A military presence is still visible in front of churches on Sundays and other main church services.

Nireen Florida, 26, who was injured in the bomb attack on St. Anthony's Shrine, died last week.

Several others who were seriously injured in the blast are being still being treated in several hospitals.

Shanthini said it is ultimately the duty of the judicial system to find the evildoers. "Taking the culprits to task would be the only justice and the best justice for the victims of the bombings," she said.

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 12:35
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