The heavily damaged interior of St. Sebastian's Church after a suicide bombing on April 21, 2019. (Photo: Facebook)
Sri Lankan youngsters have created a song on social media to commemorate the Easter Sunday bombing victims with the aim of building peace and religious harmony.
Gayan Abegoda, an organizing committee member, said the song aims to foster religious harmony in the country to mark the first anniversary of the suicide attacks.
"These attacks sowed the seeds of racism and religious extremism among the people and it is evident that some politicians used them to achieve their political goals," said Abegoda.
"As a result, there was suspicion and hatred of the entire Muslim community and in some areas systematic violence was directed at the Muslim community.
"One of the main pledges of the 2019 presidential election was to bring justice to the affected people and to prosecute the offenders."
On April 21, all places of worship places nationwide rang bells at 8.40am, followed by a two-minute silence at 8.45am, then lit lamps and observed religious rites to commemorate the victims.
On April 21, 2019, nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring at least 500.
Citizens of Japan, Switzerland, Spain, the UK, Denmark, Portugal, India, Turkey, Australia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, the US and China were among the dead.
The militants launched seven suicide bomb attacks at two Catholic churches and one evangelical church in Batticaloa in the eastern part of the country. The explosions occurred between 8.45am and 9.30am.
St. Sebastian's Church and St. Anthony's Shrine were consecrated and reopened to the public but Zion Church is still undergoing renovation.
In the aftermath, the public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to prevent the attacks.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said the Easter Sunday attacks could have been easily prevented. He said the intelligence service of a friendly nation had provided an advanced warning to the government of the possible dates and targets of the attack.
Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, said the government's promise has not still been fulfilled one year after the attacks.
"We see that legal action against those responsible is not only distracted by the coronavirus crisis but also by other political interests," said Kumara, one of the team that created the song.
"We urge state mechanisms be revived to promote peace, harmony and religious coexistence. We have taken steps to draw the government's attention to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks through the song and created it with the participation of a large number of youths."
Aruni Fernando, a mother of three who lit 15 oil lamps to commemorate the victims, said many families are still struggling to make sense of what happened on that day and need support to heal their inner wounds.
"The coronavirus has prevented families from gathering for services and going to the cemetery to mourn and seek consolation," she said.