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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka imposes curfew after anti-Muslim riots

Cardinal Ranjith says victims of the terrorist bombings that triggered communal strife are already saints in Heaven

ucanews.com reporters, Colombo

ucanews.com reporters, Colombo

Updated: May 15, 2019 04:15 AM GMT
Sri Lanka imposes curfew after anti-Muslim riots

Joseph Gomez's family receive compensation from Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith at St. Lucia's Cathedral where a memorial service was held on May 11 for victims of Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday Islamic terrorist attacks. (Photo by Niranjani Roland/ucanews.com)

Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide curfew for the second night in a row on May 14 after a wave of anti-Muslim violence in the wake of the Easter Sunday Islamic suicide attacks that claimed more than 250 lives.

A Muslim man was stabbed to death while rioters torched Muslim-owned shops and vandalized mosques during attacks on May 13. The man died from stab wounds after a mob attacked his business in Puttalam district in the country's north west

Police have arrested 60 people, including the leader of a far right Buddhist group, while the United Nations has called for calm and a "rejection of hate."

Mobs targeted Muslim homes, businesses and places of worship in several cities in the wake of the April 21 terror bombings targeting Christians.

Authorities closed down Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp and some other social media platforms. This was done to stem the circulation of rumors and to inhibit the organizing of mob attacks amid the viral circulation of video clips and posts inciting violence against the Muslim community.

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The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a leading think tank, expressed alarm over communal violence directed against the Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority nation.

Violent incidents have occurred in cities and towns including Negombo, Chilaw, Kurunagala, Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola, Dummalasuriya, Rasnayakapura, Kobeigane and Bingiriya.

The CPA noted that Sri Lanka is a multiethnic and multireligious country where all citizens are held to be equal before the law.

"Our political and religious leaders must ensure we respect our diversity and ensure that all steps are taken to prevent the spread of violence, address apprehension within communities and promote peace and coexistence," the think tank said on May 13.

An unwillingness by authorities to prosecute people for stirring racial and religious hatred had exacerbated a culture of impunity, it warned, adding that such inaction had occurred on past occasions.

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), the nation’s supreme body of Islamic theologians, asked the Defense Ministry and police headquarters to investigate an attack on a mosque in Chilaw.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith appealed to all Sri Lankans to maintain peace, adding that he had recently received death threats.

On May 11, he conduced a special Mass amid tight security at St. Lucia's Cathedral to commemorate those killed in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, with permission given for attendance of up to 10 members of each victim's family. People who were injured during the attacks also participated to the service.

"If any politicians are behind the incident, they should be punished," Cardinal Ranjith said.

Joseph Gomez, 63, lost five family members in a terror attack at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo. His son and daughter-in-law as well as their three children, aged nine, six and one, were killed. 

On May 7, he found the body of six-year-old Clevon, who started school earlier this year, but the distraught grandfather was still searching for the the body of nine-year-old Bevon.

Cardinal Ranjith said that those who sacrificed their lives on Easter Sunday had already become saints in Heaven. “No need to pray for them, but pray to them,” he said.

Father Lawrence Ramanayaka, from Caritas, said the Catholic welfare agency is giving spiritual support and trauma counseling as well as financial and legal assistance to families of those who were killed or injured

Financial help for families includes giving 100,000 rupees (US$588) for each person who died and 50,000 rupees for those who were injured.

Father Ramanayaka said Caritas distributed 22 million rupees to 183 families at St. Sebastian's Church in the port city of Negombo.

The Sri Lankan government has said it will pay 1 million rupees for each death and 500,000 rupees for those who were injured in the Easter terror attack.

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