Churches and Christian communities have begun to rebuild after the devastating Easter weekend attacks by Muslim extremists, which saw 253 killed and more than 500 hospitalised.
The Islamic State terror group said it had carried out the attacks, with some social media posts claiming this was done in retaliation for the much-publicised Mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year, which sparked mass coverage in Western news.
The attackers in Sri Lanka targeted three churches which were packed out for Easter, and three hotels, killing many Sri Lankans and 42 foreign nationals in the bombing attacks.
One of the churches targeted was Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa. Barnabas Fund has a close relationship with this congregation of more than 400 people and has been helping war widows at the church for several years. Approximately 28 people were killed at Zion Church, including many children.
The leader of the evangelical church bombed in Batticaloa has offered forgiveness to the attackers, and gave thanks to all who have offered prayer and support.
Speaking to pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, part of the Evangelical Alliance’s council, pastor Roshan Mahesen also spoke of his commitment to continue the church’s mission.
Pastor Roshan said, ‘We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you, no matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’.
Reports have claimed intelligence services had been warned of pending attacks. According to the New York Times, a top Sri Lankan police official issued a letter on 11 April to government security officials warning of possible suicide attacks planned at Catholic churches. However, those warnings were not passed on, and security at Easter services seems to have been lax.
In a statement, Release International said, ‘Release partners in Sri Lanka are working hard to help in the crisis. They say all their staff are safe. They have appealed for calm and for prayer from Christians around the world – especially for those grieving the loss of loved ones’.