The death toll from a series of bombings that targeted churches on Easter day have claimed upwards of 290 lives. At 8:45 a.m. on the 23rd of April, bombs detonated at various locations across the island nation.
Six of the bombings took place near St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church, as well as the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels. Additionally, more bombs were detonated near the St. Sebastian Catholic church in Negombo, and the Protestant Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa. So far, Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, informed reporters that the attacks are being considered an act of terrorism, and that police have arrested 24 suspects in connection with the massacre.
British Member of Parliament, Tulip Siddiq, declared via Twitter that one of her relatives died in the massacre:
In an effort to apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and curtail the spread of unverified rumors, the government of Sri Lanka has temporarily disabled social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Prior to this horrific event, Sri Lanka had been gripped by a deadly 26-year civil war between the Sinhala Buddhist majority and the Tamil minority group, which came to an end in 2009. May 18th, 2019 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the end of the civil war.
It is a scary time to be a person of faith.
Around the world, people are offering their condolences to the families of the victims who were killed in this heinous massacre. Along with two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemning the attacks, Pope Francis expressed his condolences in his annual Easter address.
With the spate of sickening murders occurring in spaces of worship, such as the mosque shooting in New Zealand, the synagogue shooting in Pittsburg, and now these church bombings in Sri Lanka, one thing has become clear. It is a scary time to be a person of faith. This, however, is utterly unacceptable. People should not be afraid to enter their house of worship, no matter what religion they identify with.
In the Holy Qur’an, there is a verse that states:
“We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” (5:32)
This verse clearly implies that if one person is killed unjustly, then it is as if all of mankind has been killed.
Muslims shouldn’t be terrified that this might be their last Friday prayer.
Christians shouldn’t be scared to go to church.
Jews shouldn’t have to be worried about attending prayer at a synagogue.
Terrorism has no religion.
As an American Muslim Sri Lankan family, my parents grew up in Sri Lanka and came to the U.S. for graduate studies approximately 30 years ago.
Upon reflection, my mother, Mrs. Ferial Salahudeen stated: “Sri Lanka has a multicultural, multi-religious society. Majority 70 percent Buddhist, 17 percent Hindu, 9 percent Muslim and 8 percent Christian. The Christians are mostly Roman Catholic and Easter Sunday is a holy day, with a large number of people attending church services. It was shocking and horrifying to hear about these senseless acts of violence. We are concerned about our friends and family there. We are also sad about the victims and their families. This is a holiday season in Sri Lanka where families would be in a joyous and celebratory mood. Now there is fear and anxiety. It’s a sad day in the history of Sri Lanka.”
Additionally, my father, Dr. Iffaaz Salahudeen said, “It’s was very sad to wake up to this horrible tragedy this morning. We had hoped that terrorism had been permanently defeated in 2009, after decades of civil war. For the first time in a long time, people were able to move freely and without fear in all parts of the country. Prior to that, travel was restricted and checkpoints existed all over the country. Sure, since 2009 there have been sporadic acts of violence against different communities, mainly incited by extremist elements in the country. Extremist elements and opportunistic politicians took advantage of the situation to incite violence. Only recently, I was able to connect with my Sinhala and Tamil university friends through social media, something that was not possible in the past. Sri Lankans of all ethnic background have been able to reunite since the end of the civil war, and we will try to dismiss this blatant attempt at division. The Sri Lankan Muslim community in the Tristate area has already started collecting funds and reaching out to affected communities and organizations in Sri Lanka. Also the interfaith community in New Jersey has invited the Sri Lankan ambassador for a meeting tomorrow in Somerset, New Jersey to find ways to help support the families of the victims.”
Overall, this series of terrorist attacks is sickening, but when horrific events—such as the Sri Lankan church massacre—occurs, we should stand united in solidarity rather than divided as extremists would prefer.
We, the Muslim Girl community, stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in this sad time. We ask you to please keep the victims of the Sri Lankan terrorist attack in your du’as.
Inna lilahi wa inna Ilahi rajioon. To Him we belong, and to Him we return.