Christians in Sri Lanka celebrated Easter in their homes on Sunday, participating in religious services through television as churches remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
TV stations aired the Easter Vigil and Holy Mass in all three main languages used in the Indian Ocean island nation. But there were no organized events to remember the more than 260 people, mostly Catholics, who were killed in Islamic State group-inspired bomb attacks on three churches and three hotels last Easter. Two of the churches that were attacked were Catholic, and the other was Protestant.
“Last year, some misguided youths attacked us and we as humans could have given a human and selfish response,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said in his sermon at a Mass celebrated at his residence on Sunday.
“But we mediated on Christ’s teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them,” he said. “We did not hate them and return them the violence.”
Sri Lanka has been under curfew for most of the past three weeks. The Church is planning a private ceremony on April 21 — the anniversary of the 2019 attacks — to remember the dead.
Dushyanthan Niroshan, who works as a travel coordinator, said he participated in Holy Mass at home, but looked at it positively.
“It was more deep and meaningful,” he said. “This virus is a God-given opportunity to stop and think about our past lives.”
Sri Lanka has confirmed 200 plus cases of the coronavirus, including seven deaths.
Sri Lanka Church ‘Forgives’ 2019 suicide bombers
Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church said Sunday it had forgiven the suicide bombers behind the attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told an Easter mass — broadcast from a TV studio because of the coronavirus pandemic — that “we offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us”.”We forgave them,” he said, adding that instead of retaliating, the nation’s Catholic minority had contemplated Jesus’ message of hope, and reduced tensions.
The April 21 Easter Sunday bombers targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people and wounding 593.
Last year Ranjith called for the government at-the-time to step down over its alleged failure to investigate an “international conspiracy” behind the attacks.
That government, of president Maithripala Sirisena, lost November’s elections, with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabaya taking the reins.
Officials charged with murder
Sirisena initially blamed Islamic extremists for the bombings, but later accused international drug dealers of being behind the attacks — supposedly to destabilise his anti-narcotics drive.
The country’s then-police chief and secretary to the ministry of defence have been charged with murder for allegedly not acting on intelligence about the attacks.
Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the bombings, blamed on the National Thowheeth Jama’ath extremist group.
They have yet to be charged.
This year’s Easter celebrations have been muted amid a nationwide indefinite curfew imposed to contain the novel coronavirus.