Sri Lanka bears pain of Easter bombings

by Shiroma Kurumbalapitiya


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Editor's note: After the terrible Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, Global Sisters Report staff looked for sisters to write first-person accounts of the situation there. The situation at the time in the Catholic community was rather chaotic as communities focused on ministry to the injured and dead and their families. This is the first news we have received from sisters in Sri Lanka.

We Sri Lankans possess a simple faith, and continue to carry out the traditions of our ancestors. All the religions here faithfully practice their own rituals but we also collaborate with one another in celebrating each other's religious festivals. We have such a lovely relationship with one another. In our schools we sit together. We learn together, not caring what our classmate's religion is. We feel that we are "Sri Lankans under one umbrella." But with this violent incident on Easter Sunday our unity and identity have been tarnished.

After the 40 days of prayers, fasting and almsgiving, Sri Lankan Christians and Catholic communities held the Easter Vigil services all around the island. As usual, holy Masses were also celebrated on Easter Sunday morning. The faithful always participate in either the Easter Vigil Mass or the Easter Sunday Mass — or some prefer to go to both celebrations.

This Easter, some of us returned home after the Easter Sunday Mass. But the sudden news that broke around 8:50 in the morning made all the churches discontinue their services and sent the faithful back to their homes. The media brought the breaking news about several attacks on the churches and hotels of our country.

We were at the breakfast table, wishing each other "Alleluia!" And "Happy Easter!" Soon our joy turned into sorrow. No more the feeling of Easter Sunday. We were wrapped in fear and anxiety, almost in tears, listening to the news going around the social media. Security forces hurried in to provide security and to support the casualties.

We all love the three churches that were attacked, especially St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo, and St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo — both of these belong to the Colombo Archdiocese. St. Sebastian's Church is in the neighborhood of our formation house. We tried to contact our sisters to be sure they were safe and to see about the situation.

The third church was Zion Church in Batticaloa. That church was full of people — families taking part in Easter Sunday holy Masses. Two grand hotels, the Cinnamon Grand and Shangri-La, were full, and the residents were enjoying Easter breakfast. Around 40 of our foreign brothers and sisters also gave up their lives in this tragic event. Altogether about five hundred were injured and are recovering in hospitals and at home, with wounded memories. The brutal suicide bombers have taken the precious lives of our own brothers and sisters.

The Christian community stood together at this moment of tragedy, suffered patiently without having recourse to any act of revenge. We as committed persons — religious, priests and laypersons rushed to be in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters at the places affected by the bombings. We visited them in homes and hospitals, and many organizations came forward to support them in different ways.

Together they organized some programs to assist the survivors. They began by visiting the homes of survivors and offering holy Masses for the deceased persons in the survivors' own homes, hoping to make them feel that the Risen Christ journeyed with them as He was joined with the two disciples who were sad and hopeless after the death of their beloved Master.

Though it is hard to realize, while hundreds of people are grieving over their lost loved ones, the Risen Lord is inviting us to journey ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, just as Jesus journeyed with his desperate friends. Our response is to bring hope to their lives, increase their trust that they are not abandoned but are still loved and cared for by the risen Savior.

Our church leaders boldly and prophetically speak of the injustices happening in the political sector in our country. Though the military and police forces are taking appropriate actions to protect the citizens, there is some dissatisfaction about the political leaders. The political instability and disharmony is bringing a lot of fear and danger to our country. People have lost confidence in our government. Our people do not know where to turn at this time in our history. We need to turn to God who is the best protector and guide.

Our wish and prayer is that the victims and all the people in our country will overcome their physical and psychological wounds and gain hope and energy to get up and start a new page of their lives.

[Shiroma Kurumbalapitiya is a Sister of the Divine Savior (Salvatorian) from Sri Lanka. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, in the tea estate sector as a companion to marginalized people, and ministered to her own sisters in administration and doing mission appeals. She is presently serving as vicaress and secretary on the congregational administration team.]