For the very first time in my life, I missed an Easter Sunday’s Mass this year. No, it was not due to any forewarning that my father gave me or a bad omen that signalled me to stay in; neither was it some supernatural hunch to keep me and my family from any mishap that would have come by in the form of a terror bomb attack. It was in deed, due to late night dinning out with family and friends, the previous night! Yet whatever that may be, when I was rudely awakened by a telephone call on my mobile around 9.30 am on Easter Sunday (21) by a friend who told me that some churches have been bombed, it never crossed my mind that ISIS or any Islamic fundamentalist would be the culprit. I am being frank here; there were many more likely culprits, close at hand, given the fact that churches and places of worship of many minority religions have come under attack for years now and it seemed, to me, at that particular moment that it could be the culmination of such a chain of events.
But when I saw the ‘unexpected’ magnitude -- just like the Secretary of Defence himself confessed to foreign media -- of the destruction and the possibility that it could be a suicide attack, there could be only one candidate; Islamic extremists. You have to be fanatical to barge in to places of worship where hundreds of innocent civilians including women and children are at prayer and blow yourselves to smithereens, alright; yet you have to have rock-hard conviction and be selfless, too. At this particular point of time in this country, now that the familiar Black Tiger cardres are out of commission, it could only be Jihadists. Scoundrels and sham patriots cannot do that.
Ticket to heaven
Those who are behind this barbaric, heinous and inhuman mass murder should be dealt with ruthlessly and no one, I say, no one should be able to massacre those who do not belong to their faith, whether jihadist or otherwise. Mohamed Zahran, who is believed to be the leader of the murderous outfit, National Thowheeth Jama’ath and is believed to be dead, but the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds of others who have been indoctrinated in fundamentalist Islam that sees all infidels as enemies and murdering them as guaranteed one way ticket to heaven. The security forces, although belatedly, have dealt with some of them swiftly and efficiently and it is hoped that the political leaders would be resolute in wiping out this menace without wavering, salivating at stacks of votes that are at stake in a future election.
The agony, misery and the loss of those left behind by the dead will never cease; Easter Sunday will never be an occasion for merry making, at least for the Sri Lankan Catholics, including myself, again. We will never celebrate Easter, even if churches become safe (from suicide bombs, I emphasize, as they are never exempt from attacks of lesser nature by those who lack resoluteness to blow themselves up) in the manner we used to. Yet the salvation over death that our Lord Jesus Christ brought us on that day two millennia ago, will reassure, console and embolden us that we are blessed and chosen; nothing can stop that. The Church has not only survived for 2000 years, but triumphed over all her enemies -- big or small, jihadist or otherwise -- resolute enough to commit suicide or scoundrels as we have been used to see in this country.
Church in ruins
We can blame Zahran, the Jihadists, the ISIS, the President and the PM, Secretary of Defence and the IGP; we can mourn the hundreds of innocent who died and much larger number of those badly injured and some of whom might have to suffer for the rest of their lives. As a staunch Catholic, it hurts to see your place of worship in rubbles and ruin. Yet, I felt that times such as these are some times eyeopeners, wake up calls, and as I believe messages from God to all of us to repent, confess and change.
Zahran is bad, but we are not good either; are we?
Our places of worship have little to do with what founders of our ‘religions’ taught us, don’t they? Is the church, that I go to every Sunday, a place where humility, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and brotherly love that Jesus Christ taught are being practised? Are our clergy examples of these virtues so that our small children could learn such godly qualities from them? The poor and the needy, the VIP s at church, as Jesus Christ wanted them to be? Or is it the same money oriented, commercialised, corrupt and ungodly culture that permeates these places which are supposed to be nurseries of spiritual awakening? I am sure any sane Buddhist or a Hindu, too, would have the very same questions to ask (I would not talk about Muslims, as of now, until I study them further).
The church that Zahran bombed, in any event, had been desecrated, polluted and commercialised before the bombers entered; it’s spiritual structure had been bombed from inside for so long, it’s physical edifice could not have withered such a large amount of C4 explosives and ball bearings unleashed by the NTJ. It had been spiritually broken, from the very top downwards, that it takes just a puff to collapse. As the Bible says, our inequities have been visited by God’s wrath; our sins of corruption, decadence and sacrilege do invite divine punishment.
Let the scoundrels in the political opposition shed crocodile tears over the dead; let the President and PM play the hide and seek they do all the time; let the former President beam with a smile that reached his ears when a buffoon of a media person tells him that the ‘whole nation’ expects his leadership; let UNP big wigs see the funny side of the episode which led hundreds dead and many more maimed for life and crack jokes in Parliament; let the Cardinal, who only now seems to know that churches are in fact under attack, at least be a shining example of Christlike forgiveness, which to his credit he did; Let the Maha Nayakes who have been deaf when Buddhist extremists were a law unto themselves attacking churches and mosques now sing tunes of solidarity with him. Let the media, make a quick buck out of carnage and mayhem.
Let the most idiotic Secretary of Defence this country ever saw, resign and let the most comical and pathetic IGP ever, wait till he is kicked out of office. We hardly care. The kith and kin of those needlessly sacrificed on the alter of religious fanaticism and greedy politics could hardly care!
Let not what happens at unprotected railway crossings after fatal accidents be the case at this crucial point too; vigilance and caution for a week and then back to the old ways. No, it can not be. I am not referring to the beefed up security and the vigilant public attitude, which obviously, is a must; rather to the soul-searching and self-criticism that must accompany a tragedy of this proportion for a nation that is self righteous, haughty and complacent. Religious and racial intolerance and majority supremacist ideas have been wafting in the air for a long time. Neither the politicians, the Cardinal or the Mahanayakes, nor the Imams of Islamic tradition had done anything worthwhile about it.
It is a time for repentance; to mourn in sack clothes and ashes, as the Holy Bible urges.