Card Ranjith: Never seen so much pain like that caused by the Easter Sunday attacks

Sunday will mark the third month since terror attacks killed 258 people. At present, churches have reopened after believers “asked us to start offering Mass again,” he said. The archbishop talks about international aid, the government's failures and the international community’s inability to force oil-producing nations to respect human rights and stop sponsoring terrorism.  For the prelate, “the Catholic community has never had any problems with the Muslim community.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Almost three months after the terrible Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, "we are far from the truth. What happened is still shrouded in mystery," said Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate took stock of the situation, criticising the failures of the government, "too busy solving internal issues," as well as the connivance of foreign powers, like the United States and European nations, which "continue to sell weapons to states that sponsor terrorism".

Card Ranjith goes on to talk about how Catholics feel, after experiencing so much pain, himself included. "That morning I celebrated Mass,” he said. “Then I received a phone call telling me about the first bomb at the St Anthony shrine. I rushed there and saw an incredible sight. I started to cry. I couldn't stand the pain of people crying and screaming for help. The police didn't let me through, but everyone was trying to help the wounded. I've never seen so much pain and I'll never forget it."

Next Sunday, 21 July, will mark three months since Islamic terrorists carried out the attacks on Easter Sunday against three churches (two Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Colombo and an Evangelical church in Batticaloa) as well as three luxury hotels in the capital. The toll from the attacks was heavy: 258 dead and over 600 wounded.

According to the archbishop, "the difficulties are not completely overcome. Thanks to international aid, we have started to help families spiritually and psychically, and the wounded in their physical rehabilitation."

All the churches have reopened "and work at 90 per cent. Believers had asked us to start offering Mass again. Now the service is almost regular, but for the great celebrations, worshippers’ security is paramount.”

Reflecting upon the attacks, the prelate said: "I cannot understand how it is possible that some human beings can do so much harm to other innocent human beings, how some may be so inhuman towards others."

Over the past few months, he has also been one of the most outspoken Christian leaders, slamming the government for its failures and condemning blind violence.

He laments that the government is "keeping information secret. Many of us have many unanswered questions. The problem is that the authorities are mired in an internal struggle between the president (Maithripala Sirisena) and the prime minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe). Amid this power struggle, nobody tells the truth.”

As the cardinal acknowledges, the country is currently in the middle of a serious constitutional crisis that has paralysed its political life since late 2018. "This feud has led to ignoring the threats of attacks, on which India’s security services reported in early April".

For the prelate, “the Catholic community has never had any problems with the Muslim community. For centuries we have lived together in peace. In the last 30-40 years we have witnessed a gradual radicalisation of that community, especially among the young. There was also an attempt to protect the bombers and signs of radicalism.”

"The previous government (of Mahinda Rajapaksa) weakened military intelligence, undermining the security services. This reduced their capacity to monitor what was happening in the country.”

“With the president and the prime minister involved in a tug-of-war, things have worsened. When the young people who carried out the attacks were recruited months ago, the authorities did not take the threat seriously."

According to Card Ranjith, "most of the responsibility lies with the president, who is in charge of defence. An investigation was carried out and a report prepared, but it has not been made public. Some believe the document shows that the president failed to perform his duties.”

"We have many doubts about his integrity," notes the prelate. "What happened is the responsibility of the president and the prime minister, who instead try to blame the police chief and the former secretary to the defence minister, who were arrested and jailed."

While "the country's intelligence service failed, we were targeted. For our part, we try to have good relations with Muslims at the local level, avoiding confrontation and supporting peaceful coexistence with all religions, but it is not enough.”

"The Muslim community must be cognizant of the damage that radicalism can cause to peace and harmony between religions. It must have the courage to speak out against extremists and stop the problem that is spreading all over the world."

Card Ranjith complains that "radicals are funded and propagated by some Middle East countries. They should be forced to assume their responsibility. Instead the world community, primarily the United States and some European countries, do not have the courage to condemn them. On the contrary, they sell them weapons, making it easier to spread extremism.

“There is a certain lack of sincerity on the part of developed countries, which support their own political interests. I cannot understand international politics. Perhaps my words are not acceptable to the United States, but I am telling the truth."

To actually achieve the path of peace outlined in the document on human Brotherhood signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi, "it is not enough to create peace and harmony in a village or country, we must promote them worldwide.”

This requires, “controlling the radicalisation of Islam in the world and push the countries that propagate such radicalism, especially among young people, to create a generous culture, open to all religions.”

"The big countries that have economic ties with oil producing nations must impose sincerity and consistency, so that the latter follow international norms that are truly respectful of all human beings, including women." (A.C.F.)