Sri Lanka Catholic church forgives Easter bombers

We offer love to the enemies: Cardinal

April 12, 2020 10:59 pm | Updated April 20, 2021 06:34 pm IST - Colombo

The St. Anthony’s church  in Colombo was one  of the sites attacked.

The St. Anthony’s church in Colombo was one of the sites attacked.

Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church said on Sunday it had forgiven the suicide bombers behind the attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

Also read | Sri Lanka appoints 6-member team to expedite Easter Sunday attack probe

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told an Easter mass that “we offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us”. “We forgave them,” he said, adding that instead of retaliating, the nation’s Catholic minority had contemplated Jesus’s message of hope, and reduced tensions.

The April 21 Easter Sunday bombers targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people and wounding 593.

Last year, Cardinal Ranjith called for the government at the time to step down over its alleged failure to investigate an “international conspiracy” behind the attacks. That government, of president Maithripala Sirisena, lost November’s elections, with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabaya taking the reins. Sirisena initially blamed Islamic extremists for the bombings, but later accused international drug dealers of being behind the attacks -- supposedly to destabilise his anti-narcotics drive.

The country’s then-police chief and Secretary to the Ministry of Defence have been charged with murder for allegedly not acting on intelligence about the attacks.

Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the bombings, blamed on the National Thowheeth Jama’ath extremist group. They are yet to be charged.

This year’s Easter celebrations have been muted amid a nationwide indefinite curfew imposed to contain the novel coronavirus .

Some 199 people have been infected, with seven deaths, the government said.

Closed-door Easter services were conducted at two of the churches targeted — St. Anthony’s and St. Sebastian’s.

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