A year ago, on Easter Sunday morning, the world woke up to the horrific and tragic news that bombs had taken the lives of 253 people attending churches or in hotels across Sri Lanka.
On the first anniversary of the Easter Day bombings the Rt Revd Paul Slater, Bishop of Kirkstall and part of the Sri Lanka Task Group from the Diocese of Leeds, along with the two Anglican bishops of Sri Lanka offer their thoughts and reflections.
“21st April was Easter Day last year and the day that saw the terrible bombings of places of Christian worship in Sri Lanka,” said Bishop Paul Slater.
“A group of us were in Sri Lanka in February and were able to visit the bombed shell of the Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa and to hear first-hand what happened there on Easter Day last year.
“Sri Lanka is a place which has had a disproportionate share of suffering in recent years. Ten percent of the population of Sri Lanka call themselves Christians and the church continues to bear a message of real Christian Hope as you can see from the joint statement which we asked Bishop Dhilo and Bishop Keerthi, to send to us.”
A joint statement from the Rt. Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Bishop of Colombo, and the Rt. Revd Keerthsiri Fernando, Bishop of Kurunagala:
The one- year anniversary of the barbaric Easter day attacks are upon us. It comes at a time with a week passing this Easter, of our Lord’s resurrection and amidst a pandemic crisis unlike any other affecting the whole world.
On the local scene the Roman Catholic Church has cancelled commemorations and after continuous appeals to the executive for the capture of perpetrators, some leads have emerged. With this happening coming at this specific time also calls in to question whether the investigation has been politically motivated as pronounced by the affected or it is the long- lasting work of the authorities.
Several media posts have called upon this commemoration as a victory against divisiveness and the strength to forgive even amidst the most trying of times. This has been quite visible in the agitations which followed these attacks and the subsequent weeks and months which have followed. The notion that all Christian denominations have come together in this time has also found to be true more often than not.
The remembrance of the innocent martyrs who lost their lives during this attack, is always the hardest. It is more difficult for the families and loved ones who will remember this day in the absence of them who they loved. These wounds will take many years to fully heal as this has been a case of the most innocent suffering.
On the other hand with the rise of extremist factors are faiths have been shaken to the core, to whichever faith this extremism may be attached. It calls on us as humankind to value the life God has given us and to also see God in the other person’s life. At a time when some factions seem to overrule this notion of human dignity it is life threatening and not life giving as what our Lord teaches us in John 10.10.
The affirming of life is present in all faiths as it is the canvass on which faith can be put int practice. This period sorrowful commemorations calls us as Christians in Sri Lanka as well as the all over the world to be leaders in the affirmation of life. It’s a commitment we make when we become Christians as to uphold God in human dignity,
We pray for them who have lost their lives, their families and indeed the many who were shaken during this period. We pray that the hope of our Risen Lord will journey with us to full restoration.
A prayer for the 1st anniversary of the Easter Day bombings, written by the Bishop of Kurunagala, Keerthsiri Fernando:
God of Mercy, we thank you for our country Sri Lanka and for the wonderfulness it presents. We remember before you the calamity that befell our wonderful family of Sri Lankans at a time when we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. We remember before you the pain and cries of them who lost their lives and for the families broken. We seek your comfort in their grievance ad recovery. We pray that you will bless the Church islandwide as we look in the face of trial and as we respond in the manner that our Lord Jesus taught us. We thank you for bringing us together, for binding us together and for making us witness towards a plurality of religious faiths in this country. As we pass each day help us, nourish and nurture us as we become your instruments of peace. We pray that in your love people all over the world may never be motivated to act in such evil manner and the true meaning of religion and peace will become inculcated in them. We pray that our hearts, minds and our spirits will be uplifted to experience the glorious resurrection that leads us into true peace. We ask all this in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.