Victims of Easter bombings in Sri Lanka call on Pope for help

THE EASTER SUNDAY BOMBINGS IN 2019 IN SRI LANKA KILLED 269 PEOPLE and wounded several hundred more. Three years after the incident, a delegation of victims and leaders from different religious communities visited Pope Francis as part of a campaign to ask for clarity on the responsibility for the attacks. The Holy Father has asked the authorities of Sri Lanka for the truth about the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo led a group of pilgrims to Rome, where, on April 25, they marked the third anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack that shook the country and the community in 2019. The pilgrims included many victims of the Easter Sunday bombings.

During an audience with Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Colombo spoke about the pain of the community because of the lack of clarity and answers regarding the true responsibility for the terrorist attack.

The cardinal told Pope Francis: “It has been three years since these attacks, but we still have not discovered the true authors. At first the responsibility was laid at the feet of the Islamic community, but now there are elements that point to a political plot, with connections between certain political groups and the extremists who set off the bombs.”

“There has been an attempt from some sectors to create inter-religious conflicts, and we have to be attentive to not let this succeed,” the cardinal said, pointing out that the Sri Lankan delegation was composed of representatives not only of the Catholic community, but also of Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.

In response, the Pope made a heartfelt plea to the Sri Lankan Government. “Please and for the sake of justice, for the sake of your people, that it be made clear once and for all who was responsible,” said the Pontiff.

Cardinal Ranjith asked Pope Francis to pray for his community and for Sri Lanka, “so that the Lord blesses our dear nation and helps it to abandon the road it is on, a road of extreme poverty, of corruption, of divisions between different religious and ethnic groups, of oppression, insecurity, inequality in the application of the law, lack of respect for human rights and for human dignity. May the Lord give us the courage to stretch out our hands to all those of other ethnicities and religions, so that we can set on a new path.”

Later, the cardinal spoke to journalists in an informal meeting organized by Aid to the Church in Need: “The government has hidden everything, laying all the blame on a group of radical Muslims, they want to create tensions among Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. We don’t want this. We want to live in peace with everybody. We want to know who was behind this plot.”

This is not a problem of religious persecution, as much as general disrespect for human dignity, the cardinal believes. “The Church is not under threat in Sri Lanka, but human rights are. In Sri Lanka, we are witnessing a struggle between the Sri Lankan population against the government. The government has mismanaged the economy and now we have many families without food. There is extreme poverty, and we want also to speak about this phenomenon so that the international community can help us, and not support this type of dictatorial government that does not respect human rights,” he said

Gloriya George

Among the dozens who travelled from Sri Lanka to Rome were several survivors of the attacks, including many who were seriously wounded.

Gloriya George was in church that day with her father and her sister, and she still carries the scars of the blast. The worst though is not her hearing, which was impaired, but the death of her “Dadda.”

“Each and every day I miss him. My Dadda died in my arms. I saw him take his last breaths in my arms. We tried fighting in our homeland, but we didn’t obtain justice. It has been three years. Every night I ask myself who killed my father. It was pre-planned, cold-blooded murder. We didn’t get justice from our country, so we are here at the international level to ask for justice, not only for me, but for all the innocent people who were victimized on that day, so that at least I can sleep peacefully,” she said.

In the wake of the attack in 2019, Gloriya was interviewed by Sky News on the day of her father’s funeral, and expressed her anger, including towards God. “There is no God. Nobody came to help us,” she exclaimed.

Three years later, however, her position has changed. “I am the girl who said ‘there is no God’ to the international media. But here I am in front of the Basilica, saying there is a God, there is a living God, because of Him we are here. I felt that there is a God. He started to prove to me that He was here. My father died because of man’s fault. God wanted to prevent it. The people in our country were negligent, they wanted this to happen, not God.”

After the attacks ACN came to the aid of the Sri Lankan Church and its traumatized community, funding psycho-social support for the affected and bereaved families and helping to train priests, sisters, and lay leaders to face traumatic events and give the most urgent and adequate help when such tragedies occur. Since then, ACN has continued to support the Church in Sri Lanka, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.