On Easter Sunday 2019, Sri Lanka was besieged by a series of terrorist bombings that killed 253 people and injured more than 500. Among the targets were four hotels, a guest house, a private home, and three Christian churches. The vast majority of the fatalities occurred at the Catholic churches of St. Anthony and St. Sebastian, where almost 200 people succumbed to their injuries, and Protestant Zion Church in Batticaloa where 28 people lost their lives.
It was the first terrorist attack on Sri Lankan soil since the end of their civil war in 2009 and the days after the bombing have been filled with confusion, anger and great sadness. With Christians comprising only 6.1% of the Sri Lankan population, and with threats against the Christian community matched by government crackdowns on religious freedoms for Christians, the bombings struck a community already reeling under a constant string of persecutions.
Serving the small Christian community are 106 Jesuit priests, brothers and scholastics spread across the Province, including the districts of Batticaloa and Colombo. Not only were these Jesuits among the first to respond to the bombings and to comfort the victims of the terrorist attack, but their friends and family were among the casualties. As fear gripped the region and the Christian community attempted to come to terms with the violence, Rev. Fr. Dexter Gray SJ, the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits of the Sri Lanka Province, struck a defiant tone against those who seek to intimidate the Christian Faithful.
“We reject all forms of extremism and stand for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely. Collectively we must find the will and the way to end such violence. For our Christian brethren our appeal is this, Jesus did not accuse or curse those who were inflicting cruel pain on him. From the cross he only prayed that they may be forgiven for what they were doing… We should not lose hope that HE can grant us peace even in the midst of this pain and national crisis because he said the peace HE gives is not the kind of peace that the world gives.”
To watch the full video from Fr. Gray, click here.