Amid cancelled church services and warnings of more attacks, Release partners bring relief to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka remains on high alert following the Easter bomb attacks against churches and tourist hotels, which killed upwards of 250 and wounded 500. Many churches have cancelled their Sunday services, and some Muslims stayed away from Friday prayers amid warnings there could be more attacks.
Security forces have raided a suspected Islamist hideout in Ampara Sainthamaruthu. During a shootout between police and suspected militants, an explosion killed 15 – including six children, according to reports. The town is near Batticaloa, home of the Zion Evangelical Church which was targeted by the terrorists, killing around 28.
Islamic State terrorists say they played a role in the Easter bombings which were attributed to local militants. The authorities claim dozens of militants are still in the country and warn of possible further attacks.
Intelligence warnings of the Easter attacks appear to have been ignored. Some say they were lost in infighting between senior politicians. The Archbishop of Colombo says the warnings were not passed on to the church. Cancelling services until further notice, the archbishop said he felt ‘betrayed’.
Release International’s partners in Sri Lanka have been working to provide comfort, help and relief to victims of the Easter bombings. They say despite fears of further attacks, Christians have been responding to the tragedy with an attitude of forgiveness. They aim to prevent a cycle of violence and overcome hate.
‘There’s a lot of fear within the community,’ says one Release partner, who cannot be named for security reasons. ‘According to information there are still suicide bombers out there. And there are warnings of a second attack. So a lot of fear, a lot of fear.
‘The Christians are responding well with an attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation and we are encouraging that. We are calling for a message of forgiveness, love, peace and harmony right now.’
Release partners are asking for prayer for strength, wisdom and protection:
- ‘Please pray for the victims. There are some families where the parents have passed away and only the children are left. Pray for comfort.
- ‘Pray for the leadership of our country, to take appropriate action and to respond well in the situation.
- ‘And pray for the people involved in this ministry, to make sure that God gives us strength and wisdom to do what is necessary, to act responsibly and to be who He wants us to be in the community.’
Release International’s partners are responding to the emergency situation and assessing immediate medical needs. They are investigating how best to support victims, provide for their livelihoods, offer trauma counselling and rebuild their communities.
And they are doing so amid insecurity, continued warnings and restrictions. ‘Those are all very difficult things to do, but that is our hope and how we are trying to move forward.’