The much revered St.Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade was reopened to the public on June 12 (Wednesday) underscoring the fact that the Catholic community in the country was able to reap the benefits of patience, a trait which its members chose to nurture instead of hatred.
The whole world seemed to have collapsed on Christians on April 21 when a series of bombings, targeting three churches, were successfully coordinated by Islamist extremists. But what was strikingly visible about the survivors was that they never let their faith in the religion be shattered by the blasts.
Some of them who lost loved ones in the carnage were understandably angry. But as requested by Malcom Cardinal Ranjith to do so, during his speech at the reopening of the church, the Christians have continued to pray for the country and refrained from entertaining thoughts of revenge. If the Christians did think of revenge a backlash was possible and its consequences would have been terrible. Hats off to the Cardinal for calming a community who were fed with thoughts of violence largely because some sections of the media went about their tasks of reporting the events that took place in the aftermath of bombings in an irresponsible manner.
Though there were scraps of information about the conducting of the traditional Consecration Ceremony held last Wednesday at this church, most English dailies preferred to carry an update on the death total associated with the blast which had risen by one. According to newspaper reports a devotee, injured while being present at the prayer session held at the St.Sebastian’s Church, in Katuwapitiya, which came under attack, finally succumbed to injuries on June 11 (Tuesday).
The St.Anthony’s shrine in Kochchikade is known the world over and is a place which has a history of prayers of devotees being answered.
The Shrine was built in the name of a catholic priest from Portugal who set foot in the island during the period where the Portuguese conquered parts of Sri Lanka. From a shrine in the form of a mud hut the place of worship was built in stages. The initial structure of this place of worship is said to have come up in about 1806 and the statue of St.Anthony was brought to Sri Lanka from Goa in 1822. The enlarged church was consecrated in 1940. And years later, in 2010, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary. The postal authority in Sri Lanka helped mark the occasion by issuing a special stamp.
It’s such a revered place with rich history that was bombed by heartless Islamist extremists. The sight of even those injured, as a result of the bombings, attending the ceremony, was touching. It showed the unshakable faith devotees have in their faith. Newspapers carried a picture of a mother, still nursing injuries from the blast, who was brought to the church in a wheelchair. She even brought along her toddler whom she breast fed while the sermon was on; underscoring the fact that in the church she surrendered her will to God.
The ceremony was also attended by VIPs from the Government and the Cardinal made sure to pass the message among other things that ‘human lives were more valuable than anything else’.
He was also apt in mentioning the fact that there were doubts in the people’s minds whether political leaders could ensure stability in the country.
At a time when one of the churches that were targeted by extremists being reopened there is news that India’s National Investigation Agency had raided seven locations in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu to unearth suspected links between an IS module in the city and the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. The threat of ISIS striking somewhere in Sri Lanka can’t be ruled out and that’s why it’s a must that all devotees entering places of worship need to be body searched before being granted entry.
As life, especially at religious places of worship, slowly returns to normalcy this write has memories of a sticker that once decorated the windscreen of a car that was parked near a church many moons ago. The wordings on the sticker read, ‘Trust in God, but lock your car’.