My prayers go to the victims, friends and families in the horrific attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter, April 21, 2019.

In my archive of copious bookmarks, I ran across another attack on Sri Lankan churches at Easter — in 2009.

The article from ten years ago states that churches were already a frequent target around Easter in the island nation.

2009 attacks

There used to be a news service called Compass Direct, which reported on Christians being persecuted for their faith. Archives can be found on Eurasia Review and the Christian Post.

Thanks to Free Republic, I still have a Compass Direct article from 2009 concerning Easter weekend in Sri Lanka. At the time, Buddhist extremists were targeting Methodist churches. Emphases mine below:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 16 (Compass Direct News) – Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota and ransacking a 150-year-old Methodist church building in the capital.

On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The pastor said his wife, at home alone with their two children, phoned him immediately but by the time he returned, the men had left.

Half an hour later, Kumar said, the leader of the group phoned him and again threatened to kill him if he did not leave the village by the following morning. Later that night the group leader returned to the house and ordered the pastor to come out, shouting, “I didn’t bring my gun tonight because if I had it with me, I would use it!”

“My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.”

Police soon arrived on the scene and arrested the instigator but released him the following day.

Subsequently the attacker gathered Buddhist monks and other villagers together and asked them to sign a petition against the church, Kumar said. Protestors then warned the pastor’s landlord that they would destroy the house if he did not evict the pastor’s family by the end of the month.

Fearing violence, Kumara said he canceled Good Friday and Easter Sunday services and evacuated his children to a safer location.

The attack on the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo took place on Palm Sunday that year — April 5. That day, the congregation held a Passiontide procession:

The gang entered through the back door and windows of the building late that night; witnesses said they saw them load goods into a white van parked outside the church early the next morning.

“They removed everything, including valuable musical instruments, a computer, Bibles, hymn books and all the church records,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

The church had no known enemies and enjoyed a good relationship with other villagers, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the break-in appeared to be more than a simple robbery.

“My desk was completely cleaned out,” he said. “They took important documents with details of parishioners such as baptism and marriage records, which are of no value to thieves. They even took what was in my wastepaper basket.”

Local police agreed that robbery was an unlikely motive and that opponents from outside the area were the most likely culprits. Investigations were continuing at press time.

A third attack took place in Vakarai, eastern Batticaloa district. Anti-Christian mobs intimidated worshippers attending Holy Week services. There was no mention of the church’s denomination, but the pastor made a statement:

“What can we do?” pastor Kanagalingam Muraleetharan told Compass. “The authorities and the police say we have the right to worship, but the reality is that people are threatened.”

The article says that anti-Christian attacks in Sri Lanka began a few years before:

many of them instigated by Buddhist monks who decry the growth of Christianity in the country.

In 2009, legislation designed to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion was being discussed in the Sri Lankan Parliament:

Human rights organizations and Christian groups have criticized the vague terminology of the legislation that, if passed, may invite misapplication against religious activity.

The article concluded:

According to the most recent government census, Protestant Christians number less than 1 percent of the total population in Sri Lanka, but they remain the primary target of religiously motivated violence and intimidation.

The bill to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion still has not become legislation, at least as of 2018. Christian groups made their objections known in 2009. You can read more about various religious cases that have come before Sri Lankan courts in recent years.

2019 attacks

Ten years later, the 2019 Easter attacks were on Catholic churches. Hotels hosting Easter breakfasts were also targeted.

The Christian Post had two harrowing reports.

The first is an overview, ‘Explosions in Sri Lanka target churches, at least 185 dead on Easter Sunday’:

Three churches were attacked in Sri Lanka, with explosions killing dozens of Christians as they celebrated Easter Sunday morning.

Three hotels — Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo — that were holding Easter breakfast buffets were also targeted in the attacks. Two additional explosions were confirmed by media in Dehiwela and Dematagoda areas.

Police and hospital sources say at least 185 people, including children, have been killed and 469 have been injured in the attacks.

At least 81 people are reported to have died at St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo. St. Sebastian’s posted photos of the carnage to its Facebook page showing distressed and injured worshipers and extensive damage to the building. Officials from the church reported that there were 500 people attending Mass at the time of the explosion.

Local media reports say at least 27 people died at Zion Church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province; 24 people were killed at St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade.

The first of the explosions was reported to have occurred around 8:30 a.m.

The article says that Catholic churches in and around the capital, Colombo, cancelled all Easter services that evening. All state schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:

condemned the violence and has ordered the military and police to launch an urgent investigation into the attacks.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said in a tweet. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

As of Easter Sunday evening:

No group has come forward yet to claim responsibility. Police found a suspicious package in Colombo as well as explosive materials in a house near the Dematagoda blast site.

The second article concerns what happened at Zion Church in Batticaloa, Eastern Province: ‘Minutes after Sunday School class said they would die for Christ, half killed in Sri Lankan bomb blast’.

This must have been unimaginably horrifying:

“Today was an Easter Sunday school at the church and we asked the children how many of you willing to die for Christ? Everyone raised their hands. Minutes later, they came down to the main service and the blast happened. Half of the children died on the spot,” Caroline Mahendran, a Sunday School teacher at the church said according to Israeli public figure Hananya Naftali.

One of the priests had an encounter with a suicide bomber, who was not Buddhist:

Fr. Kumaran, a pastor at Zion Church, told Times of India that he witnessed the death of many of the children shortly after arguing with the suicide bombing suspect he did not recognize.

It was about 8:30 a.m., Kumaran said, when he saw the suicide bombing suspect carrying a bag at the steps of the church already filled with worshipers.

“I asked him who he was and his name. He said he was a Muslim and wanted to visit the church,” Kumaran said.

Kumaran said he was ushered away from the encounter by other priests because it was getting late for Mass. As he walked toward the podium he heard an explosion. When he turned around, the blood of his congregants, including many from the children’s Sunday School class, was splattered on the church walls.

Twenty-eight people were killed, among them 12 children. Two are critical,” a distressed Kumaran told the publication.

A taxi driver lost his only child, a son, who had been part of Sunday School class that morning. The driver’s elder sister also died in the blast. His two other sisters and a brother-in-law were in critical condition as of Monday.

The driver also lost his friend in the explosion:

Ramesh, who had also questioned the suicide bombing suspect and “pushed the man outside the church door,” also died too as the man blew himself up shortly after that.

One priest just missed being killed. This was one time when being late had an advantage:

Fr. Kanapathipillai Deivendiran, who was scheduled to deliver the Easter Day message at Zion Church on Sunday, told The Hindu had he not been running late, he may have been killed too.

“I went a little after 9 a.m. I was a few minutes late or you will not be speaking to me now,” he said. “I didn’t know that there had been a blast a few minutes before that, I just walked into the premises. As I entered, I was shaken by the sight — walls had collapsed completely, there were bodies all over the floor,” he said.

The article gave additional statistics:

the death toll from the bomb attacks on several churches and luxury hotels in the island nation, where Christians make up less than 10 percent of the 20 million population, rose to nearly 300 Monday with at least 500 wounded.

By Monday, April 22, news emerged that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka’s intelligence services had received a warning ten days beforehand. They had not taken any action — and they had not informed him. From The Epoch Times:

Wickremesinghe told reporters on April 21 that the warning to Sri Lanka’s police hadn’t been acted upon and that the information hadn’t been passed to him.

The following tweet is from an MP and government minister:

The responses to his tweet were scathing, including these:

The Epoch Times says the alert reads, in part:

A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.

The NTJ is a radical Islamic group in Sri Lanka.

Out of 24 persons arrested, 13 suspects were in custody when The Epoch Times filed their report:

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, identified the culprits as religious extremists. He said that although they have been identified, their names won’t be released to the public for security reasons.

Wijewardene confirmed that suicide bombers have been found to be responsible for most of the bombings on April 21, and that a single group is believed to be responsible for the coordinated explosions that all went off around 9 a.m. local time.

Interestingly enough, this was:

the first major attack in the country since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war between the Marxist Tamil Tigers organization and the government in 2009.

The Tamil Tigers were ‘innovators’ in suicide bombs.

Someone from St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of the capital, recalled the horrors of the country’s civil war:

We are all in shock. We don’t want the country to go back to that dark past where we had to live in fear of suicide blasts all the time.

Although Sri Lankans were the majority population who were victims, there were also tourists from all over the world: Europe, the United States, Turkey and China.

A reformist imam, who divides his time between Washington DC and Australia, tweeted:

On Tuesday, the imam disagreed with Sri Lankan findings:

This news, which also emerged on Tuesday, did not escape his notice:

He responded:

He posted something that got him in hot water with Zuckerberg’s crew:

This is the imam’s view of suicide bombing:

He also praised the response from the United States and criticised CNN:

He isn’t too keen on Democrats, either:

He also had a go at Al Jazeera:

He also tells us this about Sri Lanka. Interesting:

In closing, he offers good advice:

I was going to go into the ‘Easter worshippers’ controversy, but the reformist imam seemed more worthwhile.

More on Notre-Dame starting tomorrow.

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