July 24, 2019

Catholic Churches Attacked in Sri Lanka: Christian Community Comes Together in Solidarity

posted on: Thursday May 2, 2019

The attacks on Sri Lankan churches were denounced across the world.

by Brian Garvey ’20

News Staff

On what should have been a day of rest and worship, a devastating wave of attacks in Sri Lanka left more than 250 people dead and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday. 

By Sunday afternoon, there were a total of eight explosions that tore through churches and hotels across the country. “These are certainly acts of terror,” the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK Manisha Gunasekera told the media late Sunday. 

“This is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is very multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural country, and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday.”

The first three attacks occurred nearly simultaneously at 8:45 a.m. at three different churches: St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church more than 22 miles north in Negombo, and the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa, 196 miles away from Colombo on Sri Lanka’s east coast. 

Follow-up explosions occurred on Sunday morning at three high-end hotels in Colombo: the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La Hotel, and The Kingsbury. 

By the afternoon, an additional two blasts occurred at a hotel in front of the Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and at a private house in Mahawila Gardens, in Dematagoda, while police officers were conducting a house raid. 

Sri Lanka’s Christian community appeared to be the main target of these coordinated attacks. Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, with fewer than 8% of their 21.4 million people identifying as Christian. 

Sri Lankan intelligence services believe the Easter Sunday suicide bombers had “very clear” links to ISIS, according to President Maithripala Sirisena. He went on to say that ISIS had provided training to the attackers and that links between ISIS and Sri Lanka could be traced back 15 years.

The government of Sri Lanka has come under serious scrutiny due to egregious oversight in the weeks leading up to the attacks. 

At least two weeks ago, intelligence officials from both India and the United States warned Sri Lankan government agencies about a plot threatening the country’s churches and tourist sites. 

A week later, the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry advised the inspector general of police of the potential attack, including a complete list of names and addresses of suspects. Several of these suspects actually did carry out these attacks. 

Furthermore, the deputy inspector general of police released a memo to several government directors-the heads of the Ministerial Security Division, Judicial Security Division, and Diplomatic Security Division-laying out the threat and a list of suspects. 

Sri Lankan officials had also received previous warnings about the terrorist cell from the Sri Lankan Muslim community, and the vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka claimed that he had warned the Sri Lankan military about the group as far back as three years ago.

This massive disconnect is due to the fact that the Sri Lankan government remains bitterly divided, with the president and prime minister at war with each other. 

Sri Lanka went through a constitutional crisis last year, when President Maithripala Sirisena attempted to remove Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from office and replace him with an authoritarian leader. Sri Lanka had also been immersed in Civil War since 2009. 

Support to Sri Lanka has poured in from throughout the world. Pope Francis, during Easter Mass, denounced the attacks, and appealed to the rest of the world to find a way to end such senseless violence. “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.” 

Closer to home, Father Brian Shanley, O.P., in an open letter to Providence College, stated, “Providence College joins the people of Sri Lanka and people around the world in mourning the tragic loss of life, and in condemning this senseless violence. We grieve with the members of the Sri Lankan Catholic community, and we pray for all those who were injured or killed in the bombings. We will be remembering all of the victims during upcoming Masses at St. Dominic Chapel.”

For those who would like to support the recovery and rebuilding of Sri Lanka, please use the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society or research a reputable GoFundMe page. 

On what should have been a day of rest and worship, a devastating wave of attacks in Sri Lanka left more than 250 people dead and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday. 

By Sunday afternoon, there were a total of eight explosions that tore through churches and hotels across the country. “These are certainly acts of terror,” the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK Manisha Gunasekera told the media late Sunday. 

“This is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is very multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural country, and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday.”

The first three attacks occurred nearly simultaneously at 8:45 a.m. at three different churches: St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church more than 22 miles north in Negombo, and the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa, 196 miles away from Colombo on Sri Lanka’s east coast. 

Follow-up explosions occurred on Sunday morning at three high-end hotels in Colombo: the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La Hotel, and The Kingsbury. 

By the afternoon, an additional two blasts occurred at a hotel in front of the Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and at a private house in Mahawila Gardens, in Dematagoda, while police officers were conducting a house raid. 

Sri Lanka’s Christian community appeared to be the main target of these coordinated attacks. Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, with fewer than 8% of their 21.4 million people identifying as Christian. 

Sri Lankan intelligence services believe the Easter Sunday suicide bombers had “very clear” links to ISIS, according to President Maithripala Sirisena. He went on to say that ISIS had provided training to the attackers and that links between ISIS and Sri Lanka could be traced back 15 years.

The government of Sri Lanka has come under serious scrutiny due to egregious oversight in the weeks leading up to the attacks. 

At least two weeks ago, intelligence officials from both India and the United States warned Sri Lankan government agencies about a plot threatening the country’s churches and tourist sites. 

A week later, the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry advised the inspector general of police of the potential attack, including a complete list of names and addresses of suspects. Several of these suspects actually did carry out these attacks. 

Furthermore, the deputy inspector general of police released a memo to several government directors-the heads of the Ministerial Security Division, Judicial Security Division, and Diplomatic Security Division-laying out the threat and a list of suspects. 

Sri Lankan officials had also received previous warnings about the terrorist cell from the Sri Lankan Muslim community, and the vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka claimed that he had warned the Sri Lankan military about the group as far back as three years ago.

This massive disconnect is due to the fact that the Sri Lankan government remains bitterly divided, with the president and prime minister at war with each other. 

Sri Lanka went through a constitutional crisis last year, when President Maithripala Sirisena attempted to remove Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from office and replace him with an authoritarian leader. Sri Lanka had also been immersed in Civil War since 2009. 

Support to Sri Lanka has poured in from throughout the world. Pope Francis, during Easter Mass, denounced the attacks, and appealed to the rest of the world to find a way to end such senseless violence. “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.” 

Closer to home, Father Brian Shanley, O.P., in an open letter to Providence College, stated, “Providence College joins the people of Sri Lanka and people around the world in mourning the tragic loss of life, and in condemning this senseless violence. We grieve with the members of the Sri Lankan Catholic community, and we pray for all those who were injured or killed in the bombings. We will be remembering all of the victims during upcoming Masses at St. Dominic Chapel.”

For those who would like to support the recovery and rebuilding of Sri Lanka, please use the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society or research a reputable GoFundMe page. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*