Updated: March 02, 2021 04:16 PM GMT
A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard at St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on Oct. 21, 2019, six months after a suicide bombing that killed 54 people during an Easter Sunday Mass. (Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP)
The Sri Lankan Church has declared March 7 "Black Sunday" to demand justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.
Catholic leaders are unhappy with the report of the presidential commission of inquiry, which failed to identify the real culprits behind the attacks.
Father Ranjith Terry Fernando, parish priest of St. Mary's Church in Pitipanam, Negombo, said bishops and priests have declared Black Sunday since justice has not been achieved for victims of the atrocity.
"Black Sunday has been declared as a protest against the lack of justice for all the lives lost and victims of the attacks," said Father Fernando.
A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people, on Easter Sunday in 2019.
Two days after the attacks, Islamic State claimed responsibility, but the commission said they have not found a direct link between the group and local attackers.
The commission, which heard from 440 witnesses, said the attorney-general should consider instituting criminal proceedings against former president Maithripala Sirisena and his intelligence chiefs for failing to prevent the bombings.
Father Fernando invited all Catholics to dress in black when they attend Sunday services to show solidarity with the victims of the bombings to mark the protest on March 7.
"The process, which begins on Black Sunday, is expected to lead to many more activities. We see this report as an incomplete report with no justice for victims," he said during Mass on Feb. 28.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has asked for a copy of the special presidential report, which was was handed to the parliament speaker on Feb. 23.
A special prayer has been prepared to be recited at all churches seeking the truth behind the attacks.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, a member of the cabinet committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to look into the report of the commission, said he was not satisfied with the report.
"We have problems with the report. Didn't the commission find the mastermind of this attack? Or did you hide it? I am not satisfied with this report," Ranatunga said.
President Rajapaksa appointed a six-member cabinet committee on Feb. 19 to study the final commission report in depth. The Church has questioned whether the cabinet committee had been appointed to cover up certain matters mentioned in the report.
Eran Wickramaratne, a Christian lawmaker, said the final report makes no mention of the masterminds behind the attacks.
"Who really aided and who was behind these attacks? The most important points are not in the report of the commission. It is odd that Pulasthini Rajendran, wife of one of the suicide bombers, Achchi Mohammadu Mohammadu Hastun, was not summoned by the commission as a suspect," said Wickramaratne.
The Church has complained several times about the perceived lack of progress in the investigation. The Easter attacks helped Rajapaksa win the presidential election later in 2019 on a platform of national security.
Bishop Norbert Andradhi of Anuradhapura said Catholics are very sensitive to the victims of the Easter attacks. "Justice must be done for them," he said.
Ven. Narampanawe Ananda Thero said the commission's report is incomplete.
Cardinal Ranjith has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by scientist Amara Ranaweera, who said that the cardinal’s appeal to his Catholic devotees to be calm and be peaceful and not even raise their hands to their fellow Muslim brothers is something praiseworthy.