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Sri Lankan prelate calls for silence to remember Easter attacks

Cardinal Ranjith also appeals for places of worship to ring bells to commemorate bombing victims

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: April 17, 2020 09:48 AM GMT
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Sri Lankan prelate calls for silence to remember Easter attacks

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith wears a face mask at a press briefing on April 16 in Colombo. (Photo: UCA News)

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Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has called for Sri Lanka to observe a two-minute silence and appealed for all places of worship to ring bells to commemorate victims of last year’s Easter Sunday bombings.

The prelate called for bells to be rung at all churches and temples nationwide at 8.40am on April 21 and requested the victims be remembered.

“Keep a two-minute silence at 8.45am and light a lamp or a candle at your home at 8.47am and observe religious rites to commemorate the victims on April 21,” said Cardinal Ranjith at a press briefing on April 16 in Colombo.

All activities that were scheduled to mark the first-year commemoration of the Easter attack will not be held due to the lockdown to stem the Covid-19 outbreak. Sri Lanka had reported 238 cases of the coronavirus with seven deaths as of April 17.

“People can join these programs broadcast on television without any participation by the public,” he said.

The Church has canceled all Masses and religious events at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo and St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade.

Nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday last year, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500.

Seven bomb attacks took place at two Catholic churches and one evangelical church in Batticaloa in the eastern part of the country. The blasts happened between 8.45 and 9.30 on Easter Sunday morning.

St. Sebastian's Church and St. Anthony's Shrine were consecrated and reopened to the public but Zion Church is still being renovated.

The public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to prevent the attacks.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena appointed a presidential commission to investigate the bombings. Defense secretary Hemasiri Fernando and police chief Pujitha Jayasundara were remanded in custody for failing to inform the public and prevent the attacks despite receiving prior warnings.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appointed a committee of formal inquiry into the Easter bombings and promised to give justice to the victims.

Cardinal Ranjith thanked the government for effectively conducting the investigations. He reiterated the need for a thorough search to find those behind the attacks and bring all perpetrators to book in order to prevent such attacks in future.

He also said this is not the time to hold a general election due to the contagion. The poll due on April 25 has been postponed.

“Elections should not be a priority as the Covid-19 challenge is not over,” he said. 

A police spokesman said that information has been received that the suspects arrested in connection with the Easter attacks have links with the suicide bombers.

He said the Criminal Investigation Department has arrested 119 suspects. The Terrorism Investigation Division has also arrested 78 suspects related to the attacks.

Sebastian Manuel said two governments have launched investigations within the previous year but nobody has been punished and families of the victims are still suffering.

“There is still no justice for us. The Easter attacks and coronavirus pandemic are blessings to politicians to come to power. They all misuse our innocent lives,” he said. 

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