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Church seeks foreign probe into Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

Sri Lanka's Catholic Church demanded an international probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings after a British documentary claimed they were orchestrated to tip that year’s election outcome.

Published: September 08, 2023 11:26 AM GMT

Updated: September 08, 2023 11:26 AM GMT

Sri Lankan Catholic Church reiterated its call for an independent international investigation into the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 after a documentary by British broadcaster Channel 4 revealed senior government officials were linked to the suicide bombers who carried out the attack.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the Colombo archbishop, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, said he sincerely hopes President Ranil Wickremesinghe will appoint such a mechanism to find truth and ensure justice for the victims and those who lost their loved ones.

The Church has put forward a four-point request demanding immediate action including an international probe, reinstatement of police officers who investigated the case and immediate suspension of senior police and intelligence officials under investigation.

On the same day, a UN Human Rights report renewed its call for an investigation into the attacks and other emblematic cases of human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The Easter bombings by a local Islamic extremist group had killed 277 people and injured hundreds.

The head of Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith speaks during a press conference in Colombo on Sept 6. Sri Lanka's Catholic Church demanded an international probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in Colombo after a British documentary claimed they were orchestrated to tip the outcome of that year's election

The head of Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith speaks during a press conference in Colombo on Sept 6. Sri Lanka's Catholic Church demanded an international probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in Colombo after a British documentary claimed they were orchestrated to tip the outcome of that year's election. (Photo: AFP)

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Pope Francis concluded his historic four-day trip to Mongolia on Monday. During his visit to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, Francis interacted with the nation’s political leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.

He met bishops, priests, religious, missionaries and pastoral workers at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. He also attended an ecumenical and interreligious meeting with leaders and representatives of various faith groups at the Hun Theater and spoke on the role of religions for peace and harmony in society.

Children in traditional attire welcome Pope Francis arriving for a meeting with charity workers and for the inauguration of the House of Mercy in Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 4. Pope Francis, on the final day of his historic visit to Mongolia, headed to the capital's outskirts to inaugurate a homeless shelter and clinic in a poor area of Ulaanbaatar. (Photo: AFP)

Francis offered public Mass at the Steppe Arena stadium in the presence of thousands of Catholics; many of them from Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

On the final day, Francis inaugurated the ‘House of Mercy’ – a shelter for the homeless, victims of domestic abuse and migrants. He also spoke to charity workers and lauded the Church's enduring dedication to acts of charity throughout history.

A Pakistani Protestant pastor has survived an assassination attempt in a Christian settlement where churches and Christian houses were destroyed by Muslim mob in a blasphemy riot about two weeks ago. Pastor Eleazar Sidhu was shot in the right arm last Sunday at Rehmat Town of Jaranwala in Punjab province.

Jaranwala witnessed anti-Christian violence on August 16, leaving 21 churches and 400 houses vandalized and damaged over blasphemy allegations. The 35-year-old pastor was rushed to a hospital in Faisalabad city of Punjab.

Pastor Eleazar Sidhu recuperates at the Civil Hospital in Faisalabad in Punjab on Sept 4. (Photo: Lala Robin Daniel)

Police reportedly made no arrests. Pastor Sidhu filed a police complaint where he alleged that a “bearded person” attacked him while he was returning after Sunday prayers from a nearby village.

The attack came following his complaint to the police after Islamic graffiti appeared on his church walls, triggering the ire of hardline Islamist party, Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan. Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can warrant life and death sentences.

The Indian government has ordered the top probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, to inquire into an alleged scam in the distribution of scholarships for minority students, including Christians.

Federal Ministry of Minority Affairs in its internal probe found illegal transfers of over 1.44 billion rupees or about 175 million US dollars into the accounts of ineligible persons, instead of students from minority communities. The scholarships are meant to help students from minority groups like Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis to pursue education.

Indian students exhibit the model of 'Chandrayaan-3' during an exhibition at a school in Amritsar in northern Punjab state on Aug. 29. The federal government has instituted a probe into an alleged scam in the distribution of scholarships for minority students in the country. (Photo: AFP)

Last week, the investigating agency filed a case containing essential information about the alleged crime. The case is registered against unknown nodal officers, officials and executives of state-owned banks, among others.

A ministerial probe from 2017 to 2022 found 830 beneficiary institutes were either non-operational or fake. Many ineligible beneficiaries were shown as students, depriving poor deserving students. 

About 700 ethnic minority people marched in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka last Sunday to demand legal provisions to save their land and to protect their lives and rights.

Some of them wore traditional costumes and carried bows and arrows. They shouted slogans against the ruling Awami League government for its failure to meet their long-standing demands. Their leaders accused the government in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation of not fulfilling the promises made to the minorities.

Leaders of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (JAP), a national forum of ethnic minority groups, accused the government in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh of not fulfilling any of the promises made to their people. They held a rally to mark the 30th anniversary of its foundation on Sept. 3. (Photo supplied)

Their six major demands include constitutional recognition of all ethnic minorities, a separate ministry to protect their interests, and reservation of five percent quota in government jobs and education facilities.

Bangladesh recognizes 50 ethnic minority groups but refuses to identify them as “adivasi” or indigenous people. The country has about three million ethnic minorities in a population of more than 165 million. About half of the estimated 600,000 Christians are tribal people. Rights groups have reported abuses, violence and discrimination against minorities in Bangladesh.

Authorities in communist-ruled China have banned traditions and worship systems associated with the Hungry Ghost festival, a major folk religious celebration, calling them “uncivilized.”

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Local government officials in Yongren county of Yunnan province, in Changsha of Hunan province, Langzhong of Sichuan province and in Baiyun district of Guangzhou city issued a directive to ban what they termed “feudal superstitions” such as burning spirit money, setting off firecrackers and leaving offerings.

A woman burns offerings for her dead ancestors during the Hungry Ghost Festival at a temple in Hong Kong on Aug. 30. (Photo: Peter Parks / AFP)

Followers of Buddhism and Taoism in China observe Ghost Month, which began on Aug. 30. They make offerings to their ancestors or spirits, or hungry ghosts. Their offerings involve leaving offerings of food, wine and incense in public places.

Some traditions also include floating candles across water bodies to help the departed in the afterlife, including deceased people who have no living descendants to tend to their graves. The ban is seen as part of a renewed crackdown on religions in the officially atheist state.

The Japanese government is moving ahead to seek a court order to dissolve the Unification Church more than a year after the murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that brought the controversial Christian group under intense scrutiny.

Media reports say the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to dissolve the church as early as mid-October. This came after an investigation into the group’s activities following Abe's assassination on July 8 last year by Tetsuya Yamagami who allegedly targeted the former premier for his ties with the Church.

A portrait of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is seen during a memorial event. His assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, said he targeted Abe for promoting the Unification Church, a cult-like organization he blamed for destroying his family. (Photo: Takashi Aoyama/AFP)

The government also plans to call on the Tokyo District Court to levy a fine against the group’s representative director within days as the church failed to answer numerous questions related to the church’s alleged shady business practices.

The steps hint that the Kishida government is seeking a clean break with the Unification Church following a public uproar over its ties to ruling party lawmakers.

South Korean government is moving ahead to launch commercial operation of the Samcheok coal power plant in Gangwon-do province in October defying opposition from civil society groups and Catholic Church.

Since October 2021, Catholic groups have been staging protests every month at Maengbang beach close to the construction site. The plant is expected to generate 2,044 megawatts of power. The government says the plant uses “green technology” with a focus on reduced emissions.

Catholic priests, nuns and laity hold placards to demand closure of Samcheok coal power plant in Gangwon-do province of South Korea. (Photo: Catholic Times)

Catholic climate action groups joined hands with environmental groups to form an alliance to oppose the power plant. The group as well as local residents says nature in Samcheok including the famed Maengbang beach would be ruined when the power plant starts operating.

Environmental groups alleged South Korea’s heavy dependency on coal for power generation has become “a disaster” for mankind. Currently, the East Asian nation has 58 coal-fired plants.

A court in Indonesia's Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province has jailed a Catholic farmer to one year and six months for annexing a controversial tourism park to build a house.

The Ruteng District Court in Manggarai Regency sentenced 57-year-old Mikael Ane, a member of Ngkiong indigenous community, on Tuesday. He is also required to pay a fine of 300 million rupiah or 19,593 US dollars to get a commutation of six months in prison.

Mikael Ane was found guilty of building a house on a site claimed by the government as part of the Ruteng Natural Tourism Park. (Photo supplied)

His lawyer Marselinus Suliman said Ane and his ancestors lived in the forest area before the Ruteng Natural Tourism Park was formed in 1991. His case highlights decades-old struggles of ethnic communities in Catholic-majority Flores Island in defending their ancestral land and customary rights.

In 2004, police shot dead four people during a protest against the government's move to cut down their coffee plants, citing encroachment. A 2012 bill to recognize customary rights of indigenous communities remains pending due to opposition from major political parties.

A top Filipino bishop warned that Catholics who support and join celebrations including liturgy officiated by the leader of a schismatic group face the risk of excommunication.

Bishop Jose R. Rojas of Libmanan, chairman of the Episcopal Commission of Doctrine of the Faith of the national bishops’ conference said Rogelio Martinez, who claims himself as Pope Michael II, is not a Catholic priest. Bishop Rojas said church laws incur automatic excommunication of Catholics who join schismatic groups.

Rogelio Martinez, who claimed himself as Pope Michael II, speaks during a program in Bulacan province of the Philippines in this undated image. (Photo: Oliver Jurabao)

Philippine-born Martinez, 53, was reportedly “elected pope” in a conclave in Kansas, US, on July 23. Martinez succeeds US national David Badwen, who took the name Michael I. He was a former member of the traditionalist group named Society of St. Pius X, or Lefebvrists.

Badwen declared himself pope in 1990 and claimed all popes since the death of Pope Pius XI in 1958 were “modernists, heretics and apostates” making their elections invalid. He died last August.

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