Sri Lanka’s Catholics forgive 2019 Easter bombers

Catholics in Sri Lanka have forgiven those behind the 2019 Easter bombing that killed at least 259, including 37 foreign nationals, and injured 500 others on April 19 last year.

“We forgave them,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, at an Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, reported Vatican News.

He said that instead of retaliating, the country’s Catholic minority had contemplated Jesus’ message of hope and reduced tensions.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” said the church leader during a livestream Mass from his residence to mark Easter Sunday.

“We did not hate them and return them the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness,” he said.

At least nine suicide bombers hit two Catholic churches, an evangelical church, and three hotels on Easter Sunday last year. The bombers, who were believed to belong to the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, carried out the coordinated attacks at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kotahena, and the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa.

“We meditated on Christ’s teachings and loved them, forgave them, and had pity on them,” he said.

Cardinal Ranjith has repeatedly voiced complaint that authorities failed to give a clear account of how the attackers were able to carry out the bombings despite alleged intelligence reports.

“Not only did Catholics die but the bombs also killed Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims,” said the cardinal.

A file image of the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church and archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, taken on Feb. 18. (Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has earlier appealed to the government to appoint an independent commission to conduct an impartial inquiry and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the attacks.

Then president Maithripala Sirisena initially blamed a group of Islamist hardliners for the bombings, but later accused international drug dealers of having a hand on the attacks. A spokesman for then prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe discounted Sirisena’s drug dealer claims.

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