Updated: January 25, 2021 10:53 AM GMT
The heavily damaged interior of St. Sebastian's Church after the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019. (Photo: Facebook)
Renuka Malshi Nuwangi went to St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya with her family on Jan. 24 and lit candles and prayed for all those who died in the 2019 Easter attacks. That evening, she saw several mothers crying in the church.
The feast of St. Sebastian was held on Jan. 20. Hundreds of faithful like Nuwangi, who could not attend the feast since it was a working day, came to the church on Sunday. Hundreds of Catholics visit the church to pray and offer their vows as a tradition until the last day of January.
Religious activities in the church are still conducted under the protection of the army and police.
Everyone who enters the church remembers the tragic sight of this church on Easter Sunday in 2019. A list of all the dead has been posted outside the church.
Nuwangi and her relatives lit candles and prayed to God to bring comfort to affected families and to ensure that justice will be served and that such a tragedy never happens again in the country.
"The release of a group of suspects arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks has caused great consternation among Catholics over the ongoing investigation," said Nuwangi, a teacher from Negombo.
The court ordered the release of 10 suspects at Wellampitiya Copper factory who were arrested in connection with the attacks on Jan. 19.
The United States has charged three Sri Lankans over the deaths of five Americans in the bombings. The US Justice Department announced that they have been charged with terrorism offenses including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
A group of nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring 500 people on Easter Sunday morning.
After the attacks, the public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to prevent the attacks.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said no force can silence him in his fight for the victory of truth.
"I am not afraid of death and no force can silence me. I must stand up for you and your rights," the prelate said at the feast held in St. Sebastian's Church on Jan. 20.
"A lot of people criticize me and blame me for the little things I do on social media. It's OK. Your archbishop is not afraid of death,” said Ranjith, who is also the archbishop of Colombo.
Chinthaka Amarasinghe, president of the Catholic Vibaavana, has lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department against former president Maithripala Sirisena. The complaint alleges that Sirisena was responsible for the attacks.
Minister of Justice Ali Sabry said in parliament that the Easter attacks should not be politicized, adding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will never pardon any culprit involved in the atrocity.
"The activities of the commission are being carried out independently and the attorney-general has stated that indictments will be issued in this regard as soon as the final report is received," he said.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks has been extended. Accordingly, a gazette notification was issued by President Rajapaksa extending the term of the commission until Jan. 31.
Nuwangi and her family requested the government inquire whether the relevant investigations are being carried out properly.
"Independent evidence should be sought in this case and the culprits should be punished to ensure justice for the families," she said.
"Some politicians and religious leaders are in no position to face the Catholic community because of the actions of former and current governments, which promised to punish those involved in the Easter attacks."