Five years after Easter attacks, Sri Lanka “canonising victims”

Five years after Easter attacks, Sri Lanka “canonising victims” A person mourns near the grave of a suicide bombing victim at Sellakana Catholic cemetery in Negombo, Sri Lanka, in this file photo from April 23, 2019. Photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters

Colombo (KNA) The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is seeking the canonisation of hundreds of Catholics who were killed in the bomb attacks on Easter Sunday 2019. A petition to this effect is being prepared for the fifth anniversary of the deadly terror on 21 April, the Asian press service Ucanews reported on Wednesday.

“A petition with the signatures of all the faithful is expected to be submitted to the Vatican on 21 April to initiate the canonisation process,” said Father Rohan Silva of the Archdiocese of Colombo, according to Ucanews. The Sri Lankan Church wants the murdered Catholics to be declared “martyrs of the faith”, he said. “They all died for their faith and there are many martyrs in the church who also died for their faith in God. They are recognised as martyrs and seen as heroes of the faith,” Silva added. Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country.

Islamist suicide bombers from the Sri Lankan extremist group “National Thowheed Jamath” carried out coordinated attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo on 21 April 2019. The attacks killed 279 people, including 37 foreigners, and injured many others. Most of the victims were Catholics attending Easter masses.

The Sri Lankan Church has long campaigned for justice for the victims and strongly criticised the government’s investigation reports as biased and untrue. Colombo’s Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith is calling for an impartial international investigation into the background and masterminds of the attacks.

In Sri Lanka, the suspicion persists that the government of the time played a role in the attacks for power tactical reasons or failed to prevent them despite warnings. Following an admission by the then President Maithripala Sirisena, the Indian secret service had warned Sri Lanka’s security authorities of an imminent terrorist attack.