Updated: March 08, 2021 06:33 AM GMT
Thousands of Catholics dressed in black attend Sunday Mass and participate in protests against the lack of justice for Easter Sunday victims on March 7. (Photo: UCA News)
Thousands of Sri Lankan Catholics countrywide attended Sunday Mass in their parish churches dressed in black to protest the lack of justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.
Banners and posters were seen in major cities including capital Colombo in the Black Sunday protests. They also observed silence in remembrance of the dead. Church bells were rung and prayers were recited at 8.45am, the time when bombs were detonated almost simultaneously at three churches during Easter services on April 21, 2019.
"All members of the government should work together to complete the investigations as soon as possible, enforce the law on all those involved and the president needs to do what he has to do as soon as possible," Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said after celebrating Mass at St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade in Colombo on March 7.
"Not only Catholics, all Sri Lankans have suffered due to these suicide attacks. After these attacks, the country's economy and the tourism industry collapsed. Now the country has reached a very difficult stage."
The final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the attacks was handed to the president last month. The six-volume report consists of 472 pages and 215 attachments.
"What the government should do at this time is not to appoint more committees. We hope the president will instruct the State Intelligence Service, the Criminal Investigation Department and the Terrorism Investigation Division to conduct more organized investigations to find all the culprits," Cardinal Ranjith said.
A five-member commission was appointed by former president Maithripala Sirisena in 2019 to investigate the terrorist attacks.
Nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 and injuring at least 500.
"The government should be more committed to an honest investigation into the alleged involvement of political forces behind the bombings, those who planted them and gave them financial support and international organizations behind the bombings," said Cardinal Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo.
"We want to see a practical process take place before April 21. If such a process does not take place, we will have to mobilize the people more strongly."
The US Justice Department has announced that three Sri Lankan citizens have been charged with terrorism offences for the deaths of five Americans in the attacks, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
"We cannot remain silent until we find out who is behind the catastrophe. Getting an answer is justice," Bishop J.D. Anthony, auxiliary bishop of Colombo, said during Mass at Katuwapitiya, Negombo, on March 7.
"Our struggle is not a struggle among religions, nations and political parties but a struggle between justice and injustice.
"This is the first step we begin today but we will go on this great long journey until we get justice. We have been waiting patiently for two years and now the dark days are over."
Antony R. Fernando from Negombo and his relatives came to the church dressed in black and said it is no secret that many still suffer from loneliness as a result of children, parents and others losing their loved ones. "The report of the commission is also incomplete," he said.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized that his government has no interest in hiding the commission's report. He said he will not make a deal with any person or party in this regard.
“There is a suspicion that many files in the report have gone missing. We lost lives, we lost property and the fear of terrorism re-emerged," Ven. Uditha Thera said.
Bishop Winston Fernando, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, said that if justice is not done to bring all the culprits to justice, the country will face problems.