05/08/2019, 08.40
SRI LANKA
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The Church of St. Anthony reopens for a few hours for Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. "No attack will kill our faith"

by Melani Manel Perera

Amid security measures and reconstruction, people of different faiths are lining up to honor the saint. The memory of those killed in the massacre, and the hope that "they are in God’s embrace". Wrath towards the government: "They cannot guarantee security".

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Since yesterday until tonight at 7 pm, the church of St Anthony, in Kochchikade, has been reopened to the public. The sacred building was the object of a terrorist attack on 21 April, on Easter Sunday, along with two other churches, one in Negombo and one in Batticaloa.

The partial reopening, amid security controls and while restoration and reconstruction is underway, does not include celebrations or masses, but it is only to allow the faithful to express their devotion to Saint Anthony (of Padua), with traditional devotions especially on the first Tuesday of the month.

Percy, Ranjith and Nevi, three young people who live nearby, say: "Our faith in God, our love for St. Anthony cannot be destroyed by any attack or kamikaze. In our lives we will always have to face moments like this ".

The memory goes to all the victims of the massacres: "We still remember all those who were killed two weeks ago in the three churches, they came here because they have an immense love for God. They could have stayed at home, and instead they decided to come in church. Thinking about those victims makes us sad, but we feel that they are in God's embrace ".

The Church of St. Anthony is a very famous sanctuary: here Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims come on pilgrimage from all over Sri Lanka.

Gopi Kirubaharan, a Hindu Tamil, queued with his family to honor the saint. "It took half an hour to get to the statue of Saint Anthony and kiss it, thanking the saint for everything. We come to this shrine two or three times a week, but after the explosion at Easter we could not come. Today is the first day after two weeks. Those two weeks seemed like two years. "

Stephen, a Colombo businessman, arrived at the shrine with his wife and daughter. After lighting some candles to Saint Anthony, he commented: "Death is the common destiny for us men, it is our destiny on earth. For us Catholics, then, this means entering into eternal life. Although coming here reminds us of all our brothers and sisters who have been killed, we believe that they are in the arms of God. "

Some of those present are full of anger towards the  authorities. An old man, after asking the priest for a blessing, complains: "There is no development, nor the freedom we hoped for when we voted them into power. Look what happens now to the country: people live in fear; the government does not guarantee security; we are afraid to send our children to school; we Catholics are an easy target for Islamic radicals; there is no peace".

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