04/21/2021, 18.44
SRI LANKA
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Easter Sunday attacks: Methodist bishop urges Christians not to be hostage to politics

by Melani Manel Perera

The attacks killed 269 people on 21 April 2019. The former Methodist bishop of Colombo Asiri Perera urges people to go beyond the wounds. For him, God’s justice is our only guide.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Today marks the second anniversary of the Easter Sunday attacks by a group of Islamic suicide bombers against three churches (two Catholic and one Evangelical) and three hotels, resulting in the death of 269 people and the wounding about 500 people.

The anniversary comes amid ongoing protests by Sr Lanka’s Christian community over the slow pace of the investigation, which so far has brought to light only the names of the attackers.

The Catholic Church has criticised in particular the report of the commission of inquiry set up by the government, deeming it inadequate.

In view of the situation, former Methodist Bishop of Colombo Asiri Perera called on people not to be hostage of the political row over the legal ramifications of what happened; instead, the country should start with Easter in order to go beyond its wounds.

“Unfortunately, we have allowed certain politicians hijack this issue,” he told AsiaNews. “It seems that the Easter Sunday attacks have become the cause for one government to be removed from power in favour of another.

“As a Christian, I reflect on the struggles for justice found in the Bible, and I firmly believe that it is the only source we can trust,” he added. “No one will escape from divine justice. [. . .] No one can intimidate Him.

“This said, I don’t want to blunt the pain of those who suffer because of human injustice or believe that everything else has failed. If we are not told the truth about what happened, the Christian community of Sri Lanka must find in Scripture and prayer the way to fight for justice so that it is not limited only to street protests or statements to the media.

“Let us not forget that the victims were killed while celebrating the Risen One on Easter Day. I fear that we are forgetting that. Even in the minds of many Christians, Easter is becoming a synonym for the 2019 attacks, as if its message was the many lost lives.

“Today too we are called to be witnesses of Christ's resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles remind us that, with the resurrection of Jesus, a small flock became a force capable of transforming the world. What does that mean for the Christians of Sri Lanka today?”

“The essence of Easter is rooted in the Passover celebrated by Jews since Moses and the passing of the Red Sea. Jesus gave it a new meaning by announcing God's great power of life and resurrection. Both events created a transformed and transforming community through the Passover experience.”

Now “the time has come for the Christian community to experience it rather than place its trust in the country’s rulers whoever they may be. The black colour we wear and the protest marches we walk in are not going to soften the hard heart of the pharaohs of our time.

“Everything tells us that the current and future governments will continue their march, ignoring and leaving behind those who demand justice for the Easter Sunday attacks. Let us leave them to their wounds of Egypt and look to God who listens to the cry of his people”.

Finally, for Bishop Asiri Perera, attention should be paid to the burden the relatives of the victims carry.

“Sri Lankan Christians must help them go beyond what happened two years ago. They must give concrete support to those who have lost loved ones not to remain prisoners of their burden.

“We must not leave them in the hands of those who prefer to keep their wounds open to pursue their agendas. Some still deny what happened, others carry their resentment, slipping into depression.

“Among those who have suffered there is a growing feeling of anger towards the Muslim community. Even in the hearts of many Muslims there is a burden; they would like to express solidarity but are afraid of being misunderstood or rejected.

“Is knowing who masterminded the attacks the only important thing? If we knew, the dead would not be brought back. The real struggle is how to really deal with these losses; how hope can help us start to move forward again.”

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