BREAKING THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka remains on high alert amid warnings that Islamist bombers are still at large and hunting for further targets. Release partners are caring for victims and say Christians are heeding calls for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Police in Sri Lanka have warned of another wave of attacks, possibly by bombers dressed in military uniforms or disguised as Buddhist pilgrims.
Suicide bombers killed 250 and wounded 500 in attacks on three churches and tourist hotels on Easter Sunday. The dead included 14 Sunday school children at Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa.
Islamic State say they were responsible for the attacks, which they claim were carried out in revenge for their defeat in Syria. In a statement, IS declared they were targeting ‘nationals of the crusader alliance and Christians in Sri Lanka’.
The Sri Lankan authorities believe the bombings were the work of local Islamist extremists, with the backing of international terrorists.
The Archbishop of Colombo has criticised the security arrangements for churches and suspended services during the present crisis. This follows the revelation that the authorities were warned of the Easter attacks and ignored those warnings.
Security forces have recovered Buddhist gowns from the scene of a gun battle with militants. The possibility that Islamist terrorists may be trying to pass themselves off as Buddhists or members of the security forces could create confusion and mistrust. The government has imposed a ban on face veils.
The Christian minority in Sri Lanka has suffered increasing persecution in recent years at the hands of Buddhist nationalists. Mobs, sometimes led by Buddhist monks, have burned churches, broken up prayer meetings and intimidated pastors.
Buddhist nationalists have tried to pass anti-conversion laws and declare Sri Lanka a Buddhist state. Muslims have also suffered persecution. So tension between faiths has been running high.
Release International’s partners say: ‘There seems to be a lot of fear. There have been controlled explosions. There is also news that there is going to be a second attack.’
They are calling for calm and say Christians are responding well.
One partner, who cannot be named for her own protection, said: ‘Christians are responding with an attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are encouraging that and calling for a message of love, peace and harmony right now.
‘That’s what we have experienced from Jesus, isn’t it? We experience grace and forgiveness. That is the core of what we believe. It’s our faith. And that is what we intend to do – to prevent a cycle of violence and to counter hate.’
The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, has also taken a stand against violence: ‘In the name of God, we cannot destroy another person. It is a huge contradiction to kill someone in the name of God, God the all-merciful, God who has created my brother and sister.’
Release International’s partners in Sri Lanka are working to comfort families who have been bereaved and provide medical assistance.
They are asking for prayer. Firstly, for the victims:
- ‘There are some families where the parents have passed away and only the children are left. Please pray for comfort.’
Then for Sir Lanka’s leaders:
- ‘To take appropriate action and to respond well in the situation.’
Finally, for Release partners who are bringing relief, help and comfort to the victims:
- ‘To give us the strength and wisdom to do what is necessary, to act responsibly and to be who He wants us to be in the community.’