Updated: September 27, 2021 10:10 AM GMT
A navy sailor stands guard at St. Anthony's Church next to a placard protesting the failure to prosecute those responsible for the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Aug. 21 (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist monks have demanded justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks as several demonstrations were held in European countries highlighting the government’s failure to nab the culprits.
Ven. Professor Agalakada Sirisumana Thera said on Sept. 26 that not only Sri Lankans but the whole world is waiting for justice to be done for the Easter attacks.
“People did not receive the complete copy of the report of the Presidential Commission,” said Ven. Sirisumana Thera, who added that the absence of parts of the report had caused suspicion among Catholics.
The presidential commission of inquiry was ordered into the deadly attacks by former president Maithripala Sirisena.
Ven. Sirisumana Thera said that it is because of the failure of the previous government to ensure justice that people voted for the current government. But protests greeted the prime minister in Italy and the president in the United States recently.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Italy on Sept. 10 was mired in controversy when Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith called it an attempt to mislead the Vatican on the progress of the probe into the attacks.
Similar protests will be held in the future wherever the leaders of the country go
Protests were also held in the US while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa attended the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week and assured the world that terrorist violence would never happen again in Sri Lanka.
“Similar protests will be held in the future wherever the leaders of the country go,” warned Ven. Sirisumana Thera while calling on the government to come up with a solution that is acceptable to both Catholics and Buddhists.
He said that some Buddhist monks were unnecessarily indulging in heated arguments that threatened to destroy the harmony among Catholics and Buddhists. “Our responsibility today is to provide the guidance needed to resolve those issues without making impulsive comments in a divisive manner,” he said.
Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, the chief patron of the Hela Bodu Saviya, said: “Catholic people have every right to go international if the issue can’t be resolved at the national level.”
He further said that this should not be perceived as an insult to the country. “As Buddhists, let us support the Catholics,” Ven. Sobitha Thera said.
Some Buddhist monks had criticized the Catholic Church for threatening to go international when the Sri Lankan government had taken several steps to ensure justice for the victims of the suicide bombings.
The 2019 attackers, suspected to be affiliated with local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath, targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 269 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500.
Sri Lankan Catholics have previously hoisted black flags to protest the government’s inability to find the masterminds behind the attacks. They demanded the government implement recommendations of the final report of the presidential commission to win the confidence of the community and the general public.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said that despite various inquiries the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings and religious leaders continue to call for truth and justice and a full account of the circumstances that permitted those attacks.
Church leaders urged the faithful to pray during a 24-hour vigil service for healing the nation and the world on Sep. 25-26. Cardinal Ranjith called on Christians to pray for divine intervention to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and the Easter attacks.
Of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people, 70 percent are Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim and 7 percent Christian.
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