Normally a joyous celebration of resurrection and new life, Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka this year has terrorised the faithful and devastated the innocent.
The cold-blooded terrorist attacks have also reignited the trauma caused by decades of civil war between the Tamil separatists and government forces.
The National Director of Missio in Sri Lanka, Fr Basil Fernando, has shared this with our office here in London:
‘With much heartache and grief, I wanted to share with you about the bomb blasts triggered in Sri Lanka recently. The attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, as confirmed by Sri Lanka’s security forces.
‘The sequence of bomb blasts occurred within a time frame of 15 minutes and was a well-planned, thoroughly organised terrorist attack. It must be highlighted that this is the first time in the history of Sri Lanka that Roman Catholic churches have been the target of terrorism.
‘It is now reported that a total number of 359 people have laid down their lives, including 38 foreign nationals and 45 children. The total number of injured stands at this moment as approximately 500, among whom there are critically wounded and disabled patients.’
Cardinal Ranjith’s sorrow
‘Immediately after the attacks were carried out, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of the diocese of Colombo visited the explosion sites and spoke with people. He expressed his deep sorrow to the victims and their families, and urged Catholics and the people of this country to help maintain law and order, and to remain peaceful. He emphasised that it was important not to hurt or attack anybody by taking the law into their own hands.
‘Ten years ago Sri Lanka put an end to 30 years of civil war; peace was restored and the tourist industry prospered. This shameless act has turned all of this upside down in an instant -it is a big blow to a vital part of our economy.’
Being with the people
‘With much sorrow, I visited the places of the attacks and went to hospitals where the injured are being treated. Speaking to them and hearing of their trauma was heartbreaking.
‘Many who miraculously escaped death do not know and have not been told that some of their family members have lost their lives. Those who are able to talk want to know what happened to the family members who accompanied them to church. Some are certainly dead and gone, but, how to tell them this news? Sadly, some bodies have not been identified as they were destroyed beyond recognition. There are parts of bodies strewn all over the site and which belonged to who could not be decided.
‘I went to a mass burial of over 60 bodies yesterday at one of the bomb sites. I never want to experience anything like that again in my lifetime – it was devastating beyond words.’
How you can help
‘As the National Director of Missio (Pontifical Mission Societies) in Sri Lanka, I am trying my best to launch programmes to:
o Provide immediate relief to children and families affected by the bombing
o Provide long-term trauma counselling and spiritual care to help victims and their families rebuild their lives
‘We appeal to you to come forward and assist us in carrying out these programmes, however you can. We are taking every opportunity to be of help and support to the affected, in every way possible. We kindly look forward to your generous assistance in our darkest hours. Most importantly, we kindly request you to pray unendingly for our country, the faithful and the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr Basil Rohan Fernando
Missio, Sri Lanka’
By reaching out with love and charity, you can help the survivors of this horror rebuild their lives.
Please join Missio in praying for peace and if possible, please give what you can.