Hope for the Future in the Aftermath of Sri Lanka Easter Bombings

On May 19, Sri Lanka marked the 10th anniversary of the end of the war with the Tamil rebels.

Even amidst celebration, the specter of a new terror threat prompted the president, Maithripala Sirisena, to remind people that defeating the separatist guerrillas a decade ago meant Sri Lanka would meet the challenge from extremists now. He also vowed to crush the militants responsible for the Easter bombings that claimed 258 lives.

Dealing with unrest

The aftermath of the Easter attacks rattled citizens and led to an outbreak of more violence. A week ago, Sri Lanka imposed a curfew after mobs attacked mosques and the homes of Muslims.

We spoke with an Asian Access worker whom we’ll call ‘Sachini’ who confirms the tensions. Sachini says, “We were concerned that the country would break into riots. But thankfully, the Christian community — especially that was attacked — remained calm and peaceful. We were led by the Christian leaders in the country to forgive, to love, to move past this, and to hope for a better and safer place in Sri Lanka.”

While the Armed Forces were uncovering the people behind the Easter attacks, social media saw a volatile reaction.

Sachini explains that while some of the backlash violence may have had a political motivation, the mob attacks on Muslims were “actually fueled by a lot of hate speech that was going on, on social media, which is why we experienced a social media ban for quite some time after the attacks. But then they lifted the ban, and then there was a lot of hate speech going on circulating around social media.”

Sri Lanka remains under a state of emergency. The fear is, “Are we stepping into another era of violence now with a different ethnic group,” Sachini wonders. “There’s a lot of concern. Schools are still shut down. Parents are afraid to send their children to school. There is a growing sense of caution and fear throughout the entire island right now.”

Seeking unity

In explaining the impact of the terror attacks and reprisal violence, she says there are two layers of things that Sri Lankans face. First, “People are still concerned and afraid of potential attacks. Until just a few days ago, there were threats of a second wave of attacks. The armed forces are now starting to assure us that they have everybody arrested, but they still feel like at least two percent of the terrorists — or at least people who supported the terrorists — are still on the loose.”

Second, within the Church, “People still afraid to conduct services, so we’re still moving with caution. That’s one thing that the Church is dealing with is thinking about people’s safety. Is it okay for us to meet back [in] usual places of worship? And, in terms of all the violence, I think the Christians are continuing to speak out of forgiveness and love and patience.”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Mission Network News, R.B. Klama