The faithful from across the globe are rallying around the people of Sri Lanka whose lives were torn apart on Easter Sunday in a series of terrorist bombing attacks that left nearly 300 dead and more than 500 injured.
According to The New York Times, the Sri Lankan government has confirmed that yesterday’s attack on several churches and hotel restaurants was carried out by a little-known radical Islamist organization known as National Thowheeth Jama’ath who had help from “an international network.” Sadly, Sri Lankan security officials were warned at least 10 days in advance that the group was planning suicide bombing attacks against churches, but chose to do nothing about it.
The attacks occurred around 8:45 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning when suicide bombers blew up three churches, one in the capital of Colombo, and two others in the cities of Negombo and Batticaloa.
One of the churches hit was St. Sebastian’s which is located in a heavily Catholic neighborhood north of Colombo known as “little Rome.” At least 62 people died when the bomb went off during Easter Sunday Mass. Disturbing images taken shortly after the blast show a statue of the risen Lord splattered in blood and dismembered bodies lying on the ground, partially covered by tiles that fell from the shattered roof.
According to the Daily Mail, the same horrifying scene was found inside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo just after it was bombed.
N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper who works near the church and ran inside to help, said: “It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow” and saw a statue of the Virgin Mary lying smashed on the ground next to bodies covered by clothing.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo described the attacks as “bestial and inhuman” and called upon the international community to condemn these terrorist and inhuman acts that are never justified.
Pope Francis shared his outrage. After delivering the Easter Urbi et Orbi message and blessing, the Holy Father expressed his “heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence.”
Catholic Churches of Asia also expressed their solidarity and condolence to the Sri Lanka Church.
“Allow me to express my sincere anguish at this tragedy that has taken the toll on scores of innocent human lives on the very day when we celebrate world over the victory of life and goodness over death and evil,” wrote the President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar in a letter to Cardinal Ranjith.
Sadly, this is not the first time Christians have been attacked on one of the most solemn feasts in the liturgical calendar.
Writing for Crux, journalist John L. Allen, Jr. recounts the many recent attacks on Christians on Easter, such as the 2015 attack on the University of Garissa in Kenya that left 148 Christian students dead. In 2016, another 75 died and at least 300 injured while they were celebrating after Easter services in the heavily Christian neighborhood of Lahore in Pakistan. A year later, 45 Coptic Christians lost their lives on Palm Sunday in Egypt
“Right now, the low-end estimate for the number of new Christian martyrs every year is around 8,000, while the high end runs to 100,000. That works out to either one new martyr every hour, or every five minutes – in any event, a human rights scourge of astonishing proportions,” Allen writes.
“Today, Christians around the world might consider keeping these new martyrs in their prayers” so that, hopefully, by next Easter, there will not be more martyrs to add to the toll.
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