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Sri Lanka: Victims of Easter bombings ask Pope for help in uncovering the truth

The Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 in Sri Lanka killed 269 people and injured more than 500 others. Three years after the incident, a delegation of victims and leaders from different religious communities visited Pope Francis as part of a campaign for clarity on those responsible for the attacks. The Holy Father has asked the authorities of Sri Lanka for the truth about the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019.

Pilgrims from Sri Lanka, some of them being the victims of the Easter 2019 Attacks, were in Rome to meet Pope Francis and underlined their request: the Sri Lankan government must clarify the responsibilities in the terrorist attack that killed 269 people and wounded several hundred more. In the centre, leading the delegation, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith led a group of pilgrims to Rome on Monday, April 25 to mark 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, Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo spoke about the pain of his community as a result of a lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for the terrorist attack that killed 269 people and wounded several hundred more.

“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 interreligious conflicts between us, and we have to be attentive to not let this succeed,” he told Pope Francis, pointing out that the Sri Lankan delegation was composed of representatives not only from the Catholic community, but the Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu communities as well.

April 2022 : presenting a gift to Pope Francis, cardinal Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo. “The government has hidden everything, laying all the blame on a group of radical Muslims. They want to create tensions between 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.”

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

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, corruption, divide between different religious and ethnic groups, oppression, insecurity, inequality in the application of the law, and of a lack of respect for human rights and human dignity. May the Lord give us the courage to extend our hands to all those of other ethnicities and religions, so that we can set on a new path.”

Later, the archbishop spoke to journalists in an informal meeting organised by Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “The government has hidden everything, laying all the blame on a group of radical Muslims. They want to create tensions between 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 as much an issue of religious persecution, as it is of general disrespect for human dignity, he 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 and the government. The government has mismanaged the economy and we now have many families without food. There is extreme poverty, and we also want to speak about this situation so that the international community can help us, and not support this type of dictatorial government that does not respect human rights,” he says.

From believing there was no God to trusting in His presence

“I was the girl who said, ‘there is no God.’” 

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 damaged, 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 victimised that day, so that at least I can sleep peacefully,” she says.

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, a living God. Because of Him, we are here. I felt that there was 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 traumatised members, funding psychosocial support for the affected and bereaved families and helping to train priests, sisters, and lay leaders to face tragic situations and offer the most urgent and appropriate help when such tragedies occur. Since then, ACN has continued to support the Church in Sri Lanka, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka: A monument to the memory of the victims of the attacks of Easter 2019.

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