“We thought that Sri Lanka was becoming a peaceful environment. But with these blasts, all our hope has gone. We are far away from peace.”
These are the heart-breaking words of Fr Malaka Leonard, a Franciscan Sri Lankan priest who lost close friends during the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. Speaking on the impact of the terrorist attacks, Fr. Malaka told ACN that “Sri Lankans have suffered enough from 30 years of war against terrorists.”
On Easter Sunday (21st April 2019), more than 250 people, including 47 children, were killed and more than 500 people injured in the devastating bomb attacks targeting churches and hotels across the Country.
Fr Leonard told us that: “A considerable number of children have become victims of the blasts. Children are innocent. They are unable to understand what is happening. Most of the children are in fear. Schools are closed for a few days.”
He however stressed that the response of the Church will always be one of peace and reconciliation.
“There is no road to peace, peace is the road. The way of peace is the path of love. Let us take every possible step to avoid violence and live peacefully”, he said.
With this unfortunate turn, ACN through its International Executive President declared that “2019 is already one of the bloodiest years for Christians”.
“The atrocities in Sri Lanka mark the bloody climax of a trend that has endured for some years now: the persecution of Christians knows no bounds” he said.
The charity, which brings aid to poor and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries, has become aware of and reported among others on the following anti-religious attacks in the first four months of the year 2019 alone:
- attacks by Islamist Séléka militia on a catholic mission station in Bangassou Diocese in the Central African Republic in which dozens were killed and around 20,000 people fled the violence at the first of January;
- the Islamist attack on the cathedral of Jolo in the southern Philippines which killed 20 people and injured around 90 at the end of January;
- attacks by members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen tribe on Christian villagers in the Nigerian state of Kaduna in mid-March that left more than 130 dead; and,
- attacks by extremist Hindu nationalists on a Catholic school in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu at the end of March, in which the nuns who worked there were categorically hunted down.
According to Heine-Geldern, this distressing development must be challenged. “It is the duty of governments and the UN to bring about peace, to guarantee freedom of religion and to repel anti-religious attacks,” says Heine-Geldern. As for the Church, Heine-Geldern says, their role is to stand by the persecuted Christians through prayer and active support and to give them a voice and a face. “ACN has been campaigning for this for more than 70 years. In view of the growing violence against Christians, it is a cause worthy of every support and every effort.”