Sri Lanka’s Catholics remember victims of 2019 Easter Sunday bombings

St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade (Wiki Commons)

Catholics in Sri Lanka remembered on Sunday, April 4, the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings that killed 279 people and injured hundreds.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo led the lighting of candles at St. Anthony’s Catholic church where 56 people died when suicide bombers carried out one of the attacks.

The prelate warned of street protests unless those responsible for the attacks on three hotels and three churches were prosecuted.

“We will take to the streets if no action is taken by April 21,” Cardinal Ranjith was quoted in media reports on April 5.

The prelate renewed his call for swift action against those responsible for the attack, adding that former president Maithripala Sirisena should also be prosecuted for criminal negligence.

An investigation ordered by Sirisena soon after the April 21, 2019, bombings found that he and his intelligence officials had precise information from India about the impending attack 17 days earlier.

“President Sirisena’s guilt has been identified in the commission report,” Cardinal Ranjith told reporters outside the St. Anthony’s Church on Easter Sunday.

“I ask President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government why they are dragging their feet without prosecuting him,” he said.

Rajapaksa came to power in November 2019 promising action against those responsible for the Easer terror attack. Sirisena who did not offer himself for re-election is currently a legislator.

More than 200 people have been arrested in connection with the bombings, but no one has been indicted yet.

A two-minute silence was observed in Catholic churches on Sunday from 8.45 a.m. when the first of seven bombers struck in the coordinated attacks.

Security was stepped up at churches across the Buddhist-majority country ahead of Easter Sunday services to guard against a repeat of the suicide bombings blamed on a local jihadist group.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said more than 12,500 armed constables were on duty outside 1,944 churches, and were backed by military personnel.

The 2019 attack came 10 years after the end of Sri Lanka’s 37-year Tamil separatist war.

At least 279 people, including 45 foreign nationals, were killed in the attacks, and around 500 were wounded.

At St. Sebastian’s church north of the capital Colombo, 115 people, including 37 children, were killed in the attack.

The names of the victims were read out after the morning Mass and candles lit and flowers placed at graves near the church.

Christians make up seven percent of the island nation’s 22 million people while 12 percent are Hindus, mostly from the ethnic Tamil minority and nearly 10 percent are Muslim. The majority are Sinhalese Buddhists. - LiCAS.news