Sri Lanka: An Easter massacre of Christians
Sri Lanka was “gripped by terror” on Easter Sunday, said Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana in the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). In the space of 45 minutes, suicide bombers struck three churches around the country as worshippers were celebrating Mass, and at three upscale hotels in the capital, Colombo, where guests were sitting down to breakfast. At least 321 people were killed and 500 more wounded, and the capital’s hospitals were swamped “with casualties and corpses.” Dozens of foreigners, including at least four Americans, were among the dead. While ISIS claimed responsibility for the slaughter, authorities blamed two little-known local Islamist groups, National Thowheeth Jama’ath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim, saying they acted with “foreign involvement.” At least 40 people have been arrested, and investigators said the bombers may have hoped to avenge the recent Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand, where 50 Muslims were killed by a white supremacist. In the immediate aftermath of this week’s attacks, the Sri Lankan government blocked social media and imposed a curfew, closing all houses of worship.
This carnage could have been prevented had officials heeded warnings, said N. Sathiya Moorthy in the Mumbai Mirror (India). Sri Lankans will surely blame the “political irresponsibility of the quarrelsome President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,” whose rivalry has paralyzed the government for months. Sirisena was forced to reinstate Wickremesinghe last year after firing him, but then pettily refused to invite him to meetings of the national security council. That may be why an intelligence alert from the deputy inspector general of police, sent 10 days before the bombings and detailing an impending attack on churches and tourist areas—even naming specific terrorists—failed to reach the prime minister or his cabinet. Such a lapse is “unforgivable,” particularly in a country that emerged only a decade ago from a brutal civil war. From 1983 to 2009, the ethnic Sinhalese–dominated government battled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a secular ethnic Tamil separatist group known for suicide bombings.
Our government badly mishandled the aftermath of that war, said Ceylon Today (Sri Lanka) in an editorial, and we have now paid the price in blood. The reconciliation process, partly driven by the United Nations, involved “incarcerating the war heroes” and “demoralizing the Armed Forces,” all in the name of prosecuting so-called war crimes. Our intelligence services were weakened as a result. The government’s “incompetency and heedlessness” have made this country “a haven for extremist terrorists.” The Sri Lankan people, though, rose to the occasion, said the Daily News (Sri Lanka). This country is 70 percent Buddhist—with the rest Hindu, Christian, and Muslim—and the attacks hit a “very multicultural neighborhood” where “residents of all faiths and ethnicities” rushed to help. It was a stirring display of Sri Lanka’s “social unity and sheer grit in the face of extreme violence and tragedy.” ■