ACN brings hope for 2019 Easter bombing victims in Sri Lanka

MASS ATTENDANCE at one of the churches worst affected by the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka is 80 percent back to normal, according to the parish priest, who says a leading Catholic charity’s help is proving crucial for people’s recovery from trauma and bereavement.

Worshippers at St. Sebastian’s Church, surrounding statue of Christ spattered with blood of bombing victims

In an interview to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Jude Fernando, rector of St Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, thanked the organization for providing counselling services for victims of the bomb blasts on April 21, 2019, which killed at least 250 people and maimed more than 500 others. At St Anthony’s parish, 55 people died and 138 were injured; and there were more victims at Easter Day services in Batticaloa and Negombo, where St. Sebastian’s Church was a target

Father Fernando said for many of the victims the road to recovery has been slow and painful. In response, ACN funded 40 certified therapists to help people, including the bereaved and a further 300 specialists have been trained with the charity’s support to provide psychological help for 2,000 people, adults and children.

Thanking ACN, Father Fernando said: “The way we experienced your solidarity is highly appreciated. You have joined your prayers with ours. You shared in our pain and suffering. We will never forget your contributions in word and deed.”

Father Fernando highlighted that the bombings had helped bring people of different faiths together, stating that 40 percent of the people coming to his church each day are non-Christians, including many Buddhists and Muslims.

The shrine director went on to praise Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, for his steadfast support of the faithful in their grief and his calls for those responsible for the blasts to be brought to justice.

Referring to the cardinal, who has indicated that he will call for street protests if the government fails to publish results of inquiries into the blast, Father Fernando said: “After the attacks, the cardinal took a leadership role and spoke out in public and asked all the communities to forgive one another.”

Father Fernando stressed that people were still a long way from recovery and thanked ACN for backing a new counselling project, this time aimed at caring for the needs of priests. The shrine director said: “The priests need help. If we are to be strong for others, we need to be strong ourselves. If we are weak, the people will remain weak.”

—John Pontifex